Monday, December 31, 2012

This year and the next.


If we had not been traveling so much the past two weeks, I would probably have a great "Year in Review" post already up, maybe even with links to past posts! That would have been awesome of me, right? But instead I'm on Aaron's iPad while he's driving us home on the last day of the year.

And while it might not seem like such a big deal to have my husband in the driver's seat, it is for us. This time last year we didn't have the new car, so all transportation was up to me. A lot of our life was up to me. Now we have some independence, our own place... one could say that things are looking normal. Ish. Some days. This past year was not as kind as I (thought) I needed it to be, but we are light years from where we were January 1, 2012.

He's been set back in rehab half a dozen times. Drug changes, serious sleep problems, three wheelchairs, two revision surgeries on his nubs, unrelenting pain, a finger that literally fell open with infection after surgery, amazing trips to Colorado and Cincinnati, and two sets of legs we have arrived at the end of the first full post-blast calendar year.

Last year, I had hopes and ideas of where we were headed. I know better this year. I don't have a shred of real hope left in me. I would like to speculate that Aaron will complete rehab, not have any more surgeries, take some classes, get an internship, get hired, retire, and we can start looking for a home. Even on my most unciorn-rainbow-poop days I do not even dare to dream about a kid. That would just be ridiculous.

But this year, I just... don't. I have more resolve about my abilities to handle our new "us" life and finishing the semester than I do about anything else. In fact, there isn't even anything else. Aaron will go to rehab 5 days a week, he will continue to progress, we will not allow the Army and VA to retire him out before he is discharged by his physical therapist (yes, there has been talk of that), and that's all we can plan for at this moment. Anything else... isn't even a wink in our eyes yet. We can't.

But we bought some tickets to see Imagine Dragons with Atlas Genius in February and The Dropkick Murphys in March. He's going to watch the Winter X-Games in a few weeks. I start a short session class day after tomorrow, then full-time spring classes start near the end of the month. Oh, and we'll have Charlie Buckles back. I don't know what this year holds for us, but I know tonight will be fun with friends and tomorrow is just another day with my very-much alive, incredibly funny, smart, and badass warrior husband. What else do I need to consider?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Spiffed up!

New year, new attitude. I've begun with a freshly repainted blog design. I liked my old design, but it seemed to have a chip on its shoulder. Maybe it was the "edgy" font? Black and white layout? I was having a lot of feelings for a while and wanted the face of my blog to show that, I guess. I've worked out a lot of the more morose feelings and don't feel the need to express myself with a severe blog-face. Who does that anyway?! (Me.)

I like what I've done! I've redone our story, added "media" and "charity" tabs, and hope that people enjoy coming here more. I hope it feels more interactive (that's a nice internet word, isn't it?). And of course, I went with some red, white, and blue. Even though we're leaving the active duty military life behind us, we will always be proud of what Aaron did for our country. I know I will be. We can't change our story and roots in the military, so might as well embrace it!

I'm feeling pretty hopeful for this year (caution: this is huge for me. I've damn near had "Hope Kills" tattooed on my body) and am welcoming the attitude change. I don't think I was wrong to give in to those darker feelings because hell, some days have been really rough! All the steps backwards, the infections, the surgeries, moving out- I never expected to do so much and be so responsible before becoming a mother. But I'm over it. I want to invite success and positivity into my life. I want bright pictures on my walls, a funny welcome mat, and some damn sunshine. So even on those rough days, at least I'll have happy things to look at. Fake it til you make it, right?

I just really want to change everything so that I can move on. The way I see it, whatever I've been doing has gotten me to this point. Great, we made it! 15 months post-blast and we're intact, our marriage is thriving, and we're even living outside of the hospital. Wow, that's a lot! I managed to take a few college courses, too. And not totally fail everything. I wish I had done better, but at least I tried, right? I need to do more than try, though. I need to actually get my shit together, be smart, meet my potential on its (hers?) terms, and own it. I'm over myself this year. I'm over being upset that the start I'm on is better matched for a 20-year-old, not a 30-year-old (at least I still look 20). So yeah! Happy blog design! No more being sad and angry and filled with crazy anxiety!

I am five feet of fight. That's all I know. Let's turn this fight around, repurpose it into drive. Life shouldn't be a fight all the time. More than sometimes, people don't have a choice. I feel that I'm at a point where I do... so... here I go....

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Home for the holidays.

Aaron and I are very lucky in that our families are relatively close to each other. A few hours' drive in one or two directions from wherever we are bring us to more people we love and miss. Of course, we never get to stay as long as we'd like to or see all the people we'd love to, but maybe we can make more frequent trips home to remedy that.

We usually stay at his parent's house in northeast Alabama, and drive down to Montgomery and Birmingham to see mine. Aaron has a pretty big "family" that was birthed from his dad's time as a preacher in several area churches. It's actually quite fantastic to meet all of this fun, happy people of all ages. We spent one evening talking to this older dude about his knee replacements and how he had spent all day gluing a $160 cherry table back together after crashing down on it. He had about three stories about his wife that ended with, "She liked it, so we got it." He was a lot of fun.

We managed to get to Prattville to see my extended family, which now seems to include about 37 new grandkids. I'm only exaggerating a little on that. We're all getting older and so are our parents, but it's honestly more fun than it was when we were kids. Everyone seems to be getting comfortable with who they are.

On Christmas Eve we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner with my family in Birmingham. I got to see my grandmother and older brother for the first time in a long time, so that alone made my night. But my mom and stepdad were there, too. And while we missed my little brothers, it was truly a wonderful evening.

I could go on with all the little details, but I won't bore you and will just say that Christmas was wonderful this year. It's always a struggle for me because I haven't always had happy holidays, but the past two years have been pretty great, with this year taking the lead. I got to spend a good amount of time with children, which made it impossible not to feel the magic they were feeling.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season. We're headed back to our new home in a few days and will celebrate NYE with friends, then on the 2nd I start a 2 1/2 week intensive class. (Yep, I'm going back for more educating and not giving up, but more on that later!)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

From Grumpy to Gleeful.

USO Article: Comfort Amid Crisis

I really was not having a good day. I was planning to come back in my in-law's and log on here to list all of my grievances, even the unreasonable ones. For whatever reason, my anxiety has been palpable the last few days. I have nothing to be terribly stressed about, but I constantly feel on the brink. I'm always behind and feel like I have something else to do besides whatever I am currently doing. So by 11am this morning, I was in the parking lot at Krystal's (another version of White Castle, but better), cramming three little cheese burgers in mouth and sucking down sweet tea, trying not to cry. It was a pretty ugly scene. I left my makeup bag  at my brother-in-law's house and can't get it back until Saturday. Horrific, I know. I have also been in some semi-serious physical pain and am aggravated that caregivers can't get chiropractic care at the hospital, it's nearly $60 an adjustment on the economy near Rockville/Bethesda, we're not home long enough for me to get meaningful treatment here, and I want to stop taking pills to manage it. So really, it was not a good day. I went to meet Aaron and my in-laws for lunch when an email popped up on my phone. It was from the author of the USO article linked above, telling me that it's in the  monthly magazine and thanking me for a great interview.

It is so good I had to thank him. It is honestly one of the best things written about any part of our wounded warrior journey, and the only one that focuses on everything the USO did for me and my family in the wake of the injury notification. For such a large organization one could presume that benefiting so directly would be rare, but nothing could be farther from the truth. My USO connections and experiences have been 100% positive, and I can't say that about anything else other than being able to breath everyday. My day turned around pretty quickly after getting that email, and I am reminded that ultimately don't have anything of importance to complain about.

I hope this week is great to everyone. Hug your loved ones!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Day 455 (Give or Take): 15 Months.

Aaron is off to the hospital and I'm on the chaise with my coffee beside me, in front of a flickering gas fireplace. I had a good rest on our brand new stupidly expensive but what can you do mattress, but thankfully it fits on our old bed. The new place is coming together ever so slowly but nicely.

15 months of near hell, but I feel pretty good about it all. We have come leaps and bounds from a year ago. I think, though, I had more optimism then. Innocence, maybe? Not knowing just how long and hard this road was going to be? Now I don't count on anything happening on some "normal" timeline and try my damnest to take it one day at a time.

Next year is going to be Year of the ME and not just for me-me, but Aaron's "me" too. We were in the hospital, which was built for people like him. I have been here for him. I have been wrapped up in every aspect of his recovery. I am proud of my abilities as a caregiver, because I didn't know I had it in me. My one-word "about me" is tenacious. I know I can do anything because I have done everything necessary.

However, Aaron and I need to transition. Recovery will be his job and not my life. I will throw myself into school because holy hell, I have got to get my shit together. I have got to take care of myself or I will resent the hell out of everyone and myself if I don't. I want a career, not a job. I want some skills. I want to feel like I am a woman outside of my abilities as a wife and caregiver. I never, ever wanted to be a housewife. I kind of suck at it, actually. And no hate on those who are fine with it and succeed at it- I just haven't gotten to that point where it is on my list of things to be amazing at. I mean, occasionally, I want to master a Martha Stewart recipe, clean the house from top to bottom, and look great doing it. But more important to me is finishing school and starting a career. In my 30s. Awesome. Just what I wanted- a decade late start!

I guess I always thought I would have arrived by 30 but then it came really quickly. I don't feel my age so I guess I didn't notice how arrested my development had been until recently. Later was always a possibility, but now "later" is now and that's that. I'm here. I need to get shit done! Aaron also has his own goals (degree in physics and government work) he needs to get to work on. So here we are... end of another "injury" year, the first full one, and finally in a place where we both can say "ME" and have it not adversely affect what we need to be doing together to move on. The moving on is happening... every second!

But honestly, I have *zero* complaints about my life. I am a lucky, blessed woman and everything that isn't perfect is just a minor, temporary annoyance. I attended a funeral at Arlington this past week for a friend of Aaron's (and many, as the man was a wonderful person and it is not okay that his family lost him), and it really resonated with me that I am living a dream. Every single day I wake up and touch Aaron, even if it's just his back as he snores. We cuddle nearly every morning. Who am I to complain about a damn thing? I am not. This has been a long, hard, hellish journey but that doesn't mean it isn't amazing and beautiful, as well. There is nothing I would rather be doing than standing beside Aaron right now.

And that's all, folks!

(I have not blogged about the funeral and loss because I am speechless over the whole experience. His family hosted everyone at a reception following the burial and could not have been more gracious towards everyone who was there. I only met the soldier once but Aaron and everyone were devastated. I will articulate all this more at a later date. I also feel strongly that it is not my story to tell so that makes writing about it difficult. It's not about me, it's about his family. It's still on my mind every single day and I am just not in a place to work it out.)


Saturday, December 1, 2012

God Blessed Texas.

So my last post was definitely a downer (jeez, who am I?) but I am in Texas right now so I absolutely can't be down!!!! I came out for my best friend's birthday celebrations and to hit a "reset" button on myself. Everyone out here is chilled, happy, and just livin'- L-I-V-I-N'. The weather is so beautiful I want to scream. This morning I put on a thick long sleeve shirt only to feel warm. It is December 1st and my light jacket was too much for 10am. Austin Is Awesome. Today, we travel out to Utopia for cabin adventures and the watching of the SEC championship (Roll Tide). I've definitely had a bit more to drink out here than I usually do, but everyone is just out to have a good time, all the time. We went to what I call "Asian Room Karaoke," which sounds horribly racist but I don't know how else to describe it. Private room, BYOB, low hourly rate. We sang our little hearts out as really weird Korean images and movies played behind the lyrics. Half of it was in Korean. It was a real riot.

I have to say though, I really miss Aaron. We've got this thing now where we are so used to being around each other. We definitely need each other and I think it's this wounded warrior/caregiver thing that is hard to articulate. I'm aware that on the outside we look like just another needy and co-dependent couple, but I feel like it's a lot more than that. However, this trip was much needed and I'm not crying in the corner. I got sad when we went country two-stepping and I remembered how amazing of a dancer Aaron was before the injury and I just wish I had him to hug and dance on his wheelchair. But I think that's okay and pretty normal, all things considered.

And on that note, I'll leave you with a lyric from a song for every person who has had to transition through the dark: You can't carry it with you if you want to survive. Harder said than done, but I am getting there. Just a bit at a time. One coffee and friend and new experience at a time.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sorting, tossing, caring, moving on.

Well, almost everything from our household goods has been sorted. Last night I finally gave into feeling bummed out.

Our stuff was very quickly put into storage a year ago. I had great unit friends supervise and do the whole thing for me, but they could only do so much. I don't think I could do any better than what they did for me. Of course, though- military packers proved that if you don't supervise every aspect of what they're packing, they will ruin your stuff.

All the important things made in through. I had told my friend what mattered and she made sure that those things were packed well. We barely had a broken dish, and even a stapler received good wrapping. There were some broken and damaged pieces which pissed me off but nothing too bad. I have yet to unpack my porcelain dolls because I'm afraid I will flip out if any are broken. I will do that next week to complete the damage claim. But other than that, it's not so bad.

But then there were the epic fails: my wedding dress was shoved down into the bottom of a box, under many other things. Almost all of my shoes were ruined, since they were thrown into a box like stuffed animals and left that way for a year. A lot of stuff felt and smelled as if it got damp at some point and never got a chance to dry out well. The blankets smelled really funny. The towels for pet messes and cleaning were mixed in with bath towels. A lot of things went to Goodwill or the dumpster. We managed to sell the nice Whirlpool Duet w/d set for half of what we paid. We used it for barely a year, and then it was stored for a year. I thought we'd wash baby clothes in that set, and yet we barely got to wash our own in it.

But what did me in was our mattress. Our $1000 first wedded bed isn't working for Aaron. It is memory foam (Serta, I think) and... say it with me now... hardly used. We bought it in Germany in May or June after we were married. It is definitely not what Aaron needs now (hot, he sinks, and isn't supported correctly in it) and I'm fine with getting a new mattress. But how much can we sell it for? I don't want to pay for storage because it will be a very long time before we will have a guest bedroom big enough for a queen again. I also have my mattress and boxspring from before I got married, which while not nice isn't in bad shape. I can only pay so much to store stuff, hoping to sell it, before the cost cancels out the potential gain.

We have lost so much the past year. We have adapted and reinvented. It's fine. But seriously... is it ever going to end? I don't drive a sedan, I have a cute sporty SUV but I really wanted a sedan. My husband can't load himself in a sedan when he's in the wheelchair, so that was out. We have to have two microwaves in the new place because the range top is over his head and is a bad hot soup accident waiting to happen. All the linoleum floors in the new place have black tire marks and that's not going to get better. The ivory carpet will be dead by the time we're done with it. We donated our electric blankets that we only used one winter. Then hell, our expensive mattress doesn't work for us. All of my flat shoes are gone. It is all so random and weird. I know it's just stuff and it doesn't matter, but when you lose and reinvent constantly like we have had to do it gets old. I just want shit to work right out of the box (metaphorically speaking) for once. Clearly, we're still adjusting to our new lifestyle. I'm still working on acceptance. What happened on September 7th last year affects every single aspect of our daily living and that, in turn, makes totally moving on a little difficult.

But we're happy, healthy, not poor, and have a beautiful new home with a lot of new furniture we love. Our Christmas decorations are up. We will be done with the hospital apartment soon and fully transitioned to our outside world living. We will be a little closer to normal. This is huge and awesome, and no amount of ruined flat shoes or a wrinkled wedding dress can dampen our joy. I'm not ungrateful (how many times I can say that this year?). I'm very blessed. It's just a lot of hard work and every now and again I wish it was a little easier.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Shiny and new...

Yesterday, I made a video of our new home and put it up facebook. Everything was empty, and the carpet was fresh with the tracks of a steamer. It sparkled. I opened the patio doors; squealed when I talked about candles around the garden tub. We went out with a good friend and bought a TV and new shower heads. Occupational therapy got Aaron a new shower bench. Today, household goods came with the things we haven't seen in a over a year (20 months for Aaron) and Haverty's delivered our new furniture. The piece-of-pie shaped coffee table (they call them cocktail tables now) won't fit so we'll cancel that. We had to rearrange everything and rent a storage unit. Everything's a mess right now and it's so incredibly wonderful.

But there is so much hope in those carpet steamer tracks, the sparkling kitchen, the ice maker in the fridge. It's our first "new normal" home. New normal. I am almost sick of that phrase. It is used more for people after deployment than it is over here. I like "post-blast" better. This is after the blast, right? We can finally start living it. These are our first steps out into the regular world, the one that kept spinning when ours nearly stopped. It definitely began spinning in a new direction, but we've adapted. We can spin backwards and do flips. We can run with chains on our waists and drive without the petals. We chose this new condo not because the Army told us to live near a certain city and base. We have decided to settle here after he has reached full potential with  rehab. If we were going to find a new home in another state, we'd stay in the building at the hospital, but we have decided this where we're going to be. So we stepped (rolled) out, did the research, and made our choice.

The future is bright. And we're wearing sunglasses.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Not Too Long Now...

CAN I JUST TELL YOU ALL HOW EXCITED I AM THAT AS OF 1 DECEMBER I WILL HAVE MY CHARLIE BUCKLES BACK?!?!?!?!?!!?!

A dog. My dog. In our apartment. Not the Army's apartment. Not snuck in, no in a hotel room, not at someone else's house. But Charlie Buckles will be coming home with me. I am so nervous, too. He's been around other dogs for over a year now and I don't know how he'll adjust. I will have to take him back out to the farm for play dates with Scooter and his terrier girlfriend. We are also beginning the service dog application process, so I will take the 6-8 months in between training Charlie Buckles to be a very obedient, loyal pup. Later on down the road (when our situation is more stable) Aaron wants a hunting dog, which will probably be a beagle. That's fine. But for now... our little brown pug/terrier/chihuahua is going to come sit at our feet and on our laps all through our second winter here, and beyond.

A DOG WILL BE IN MY HOUSE. I AM SO EXCITED.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Aaron, Halloween 2011.

Last year we were still in-patient and Aaron wanted peg legs for his costume. I didn't work nearly as hard as it seems; he just makes it look that great. We both felt pretty yucky today so we didn't get to dress up like we planned so I'm re-posting it in honor of the amputee sense of humor and our first hospital bound "holiday." However, I am not sure we'll ever top this. I dressed up as his wench, but this is the best picture of this day last year. The glass is always half-full. I promise. 


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Actively choosing "no."

It's one thing to know that baby making is up in the air. You know, we don't know and aren't going to know for some time. If this were the natural state of things I think I would feel absolutely okay with our lot.

But when we chose a medical procedure that guarantees that we can't decide to have kids for X amount of time (it prolongs getting the eventual answer), it actually feels really wrong. Like, biologically backwards. Now, having a long-acting form of testosterone implanted in Aaron is without a doubt the best thing for him right now. I don't even question the decision because he needs it. But we're humans... in our 30s... Americans, red-blooded and relatively healthy. Or we were, before last year. We should be able to decide when we're going to have a child, whenever we want, for whatever reasons we have. Almost everyone else does it that way, right? We took a step in the opposite direction, and will probably continue this therapy (it lasts about 4 months, so he could need it and benefit from it multiple times).

Ultimately, we don't need children for this marriage to be all that it can be. If it's just us, for all time, then we'll be fine. I'll probably have 6 dogs and some rabbits, though. And maybe obsess a little too much about the kids that belong to our friends and family, but we'll really be fine. It should just be more of a choice than it is.

Last weekend we had a run-in with a total stranger, who just wanted to thank Aaron for his sacrifice and talk shop. The service member did not marry until 35, and kids didn't come right away. He's got two toddlers in his early 40s. His wife seemed like she was maybe five years younger than him, but it was hard to tell (she was beautiful, actually). I asked him how it was having young kids at his age. He was super cool about it and what he said really reassured me about the possibility of us not being about to grow our family for awhile (that includes adoption, which any intelligent person knows takes more time and money than anyone entering the process thinks possible). So people can be happy and healthy with toddlers while their friends have teenagers. They had a gorgeous family. It was a picture of inspiration for me.

We still have that baby plan I talked about, by the way. When I say "baby plan" I don't mean some chart and action within the next 12 months. It just means that we have ideas about what we'd like to do. It just seems that what feels natural (leaving it open-ended, definitely having a kid within the next few years) and what is needed for success now are two different things.

This life, this war, these injuries have thrown us more curve balls than we ever could have imagined existed. The no-brainer decisions will always default to what is best for my husband's health. I support all of those choices, and encourage him to think only of his recovery. So testosterone implants happened and I don't regret it. Never will. It just... man. We should be actively planning a family at this point and we're not. We're doing the opposite. It's not a happy-happy-joy-joy feeling, that's for sure.

I don't even know how far I'm willing to go with IVF to have our "own" kid. We don't know how we'll go about adopting, either. We have nothing, really. Again, totally opposite direction of where we "should" be, in that alternate universe of no war and no injuries. Stupid war.

But we have an apartment coming up, and furniture to buy. We have a dog coming back to us (even if it's not two, which still breaks my heart and if I have a boy child I might possibly call him Scooter because of the best beagle I ever knew and gave up so he could live a great farm dog life). We have plans and goals and adventures. We are nothing short of blessed. We choose what we can, right? It just doesn't make what we can't choose sting any less.

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Home Is Wherever You Are."

From Germany to Drum hotels and an apartment to a deployment separation and the move here to begin our new, post-blast life I've never had a problem making a home out of wherever we are. When a soldier is critically injured and requires a caregiver while here at Walter Reed-Bethesda, there is a lovely "apartment barracks" building for them. I live here with Aaron and I have to say that the building isn't too shabby. The apartment came fully furnished with basic kitchen necessities and a few linens. Of course, over the past year I have added small pieces of furniture, stocked the kitchen, and purchased additional bedding and towels. When people stop by, they tell me it looks "lived in" and like a home, not like the extended stay suite it originally mimics. The building has served us well.

However, it has not been without its challenges, many of which I've blogged about (usually in a fit of despair). There are little things, like the small electric oven and stovetop that makes simmering anything impossible. The oven itself isn't conducive to cooking anything consistently utside of some rolls. The bathrooms flood and don't have fans or lids on the toilets. The desks in the bedrooms are way too big. The couch is sad (literally: the back cushions sag and it looks like the whole thing is crying). It's also just flat-out not normal to live at hospital. There are aspects of achieving the "new normal" that just can't happen here. Since the active duty "regular" Army life is clearly behind us, we've been talking about what it's going to mean to really move on. So, we took a big step in that direction...

And we found a new place to live! We're pretty excited. I've been keeping an eye out for appropriate places for awhile now. Gaithersburg and Germantown are too far, and anything directly north and definitely anything south of the hospital is very expensive. We were feeling pretty limited but I wasn't going to give up. We had a good idea of where to look, though but nothing had really struck a cord except a large walk-up apartment community, but parking seemed nightmarish. But yesterday I logged onto Craigslist and saw a great special for a place I had deemed too expensive earlier in the search. We had some time, so we popped out and took a tour. It's fantastic. There's a parking garage attached to the building with access on every level, so that's a huge sell right there. Aaron can always get to his car and not be outside, so if the power goes out he isn't reliant on an elevator. But, there are many elevators in the building. We first toured a one bed-bath, and were impressed with the low kitchen counters and shelving already installed in the closets and pantries. Aaron asked about a two bedroom, and the price was right so we toured that, as well. The oven is full-sized gas (oh sweet baby Jesus, a real oven!) and the fridge has an ice-maker. So this place is looking pretty good, right? Oh, and of course it comes with a washer and dryer. I assumed that the two bedroom only had one bathroom for the price because finding a two bathroom anything usually jacks the price right up to  "hell no." But there it was... a second full bathroom! With a shower stall! And the master bath has a garden tub! A TUB FOR BATHS! There is a juliet balcony, which is just a set of french doors and a wrought-iron frame you can step on. We applied yesterday afternoon and if all things go well, we'll be in our new home before the end of the year.

A lot of people wouldn't do what we're doing, and that's okay. Yet many seem to understand why we're breaking out. I was having celebratory wine bottles with one of my warrior wife friends and she was so funny about the oven and tub (it's the little things, truly). Yes, this is something we are choosing. We could continue to live in the building for probably six more months and enjoy being "taken care of." For us, it's about choosing to move on instead of being forced to do so. We see some people who do all they can to stay here, or can't seem to get past having to give up on active duty life. It does get better. The civilian world is good enough for the other 99% of America, so it's definitely going to be good enough for us! Moving out is a very awesome and big step in the right direction. Aaron will drive to PT, just like most people drive to work. We'll have Charlie Buckles back, so we won't be able to stay gone all day and night if it suits us. I'll be halfway to school, so that commute won't be so tiresome. Target is across the street. Sure, we won't be real "normals" but we can fake it til we make it. And I can't wait!



Monday, October 22, 2012

Stop Yelling!

I think my birth control pill is making me crazy because I'm being really sensitive and reactionary lately. Yesterday I nearly had an actual confrontation (altercation?) with someone who attempted to threaten to hit me, my friend, and my husband in the crosswalk. Honking and rolling forward a bit, actually. I yelled, Aaron called her a bitch, she yelled back, I yelled something about him doing it for her freedom... ugh. I am trying really hard to let Aaron handle these situations, but it's hard not to go apeshit when someone wants to disregard traffic laws and act like they own the crosswalk with their car. It's not okay, but I shouldn't make it uncomfortable for the people with me, either.

Then one of my favorite sites, Jezebel, put up a post written by someone discussing how it felt to deal with her friend's war-induced amputation. It was a good post, actually. I liked it. And for the most part, the comments were alright, too. I've mentioned on the site in comments a few times about my situation and people are usually pretty awesome. No one has said anything nasty directly to me, anyway. But this post brought out the trolls: the "soldiers are all dumb teenagers who don't know what they're doing" trolls, the "soldiers are the ignorant ones" trolls, the "soldiers do terrible things  to the Afghan people" trolls. Ugh. I really can't expend much energy on thinking about those people existing, so all I say is, "You don't know shit, and it must be nice." It's how I feel about all the haters, the fellow wives who haven't been nice, the strangers, anyone who has been less than what I think they should be to my husband and me... I guess it's all I can do. We live in a fantastic country where most people don't have to know what we do to our military and what all of this can really cost. I didn't have a choice in finding out, though. So again: Must. Be. Nice. *Grin.* God love 'em, and bless their little hearts. (We all know what that means in Southern-ese.)

It also gets hard to read from wives who are convinced their husbands have nearly been killed, or that the deployment is the worst thing in the whole world. I've met dozens of people who shouldn't be alive, from getting shot through the head to major arteries being severed. And amputations. And blinding. Blasts and explosions. Until it's over, it's never possible to know if someone would have lived or died. And as for deployment being awful... well, that's on me. Deployment is awful. And I hope it is the most awful thing anyone goes through, because it does get worse and not one more person should know about it. It gets worse than what we've been through, too. And I hate it. But until you live "the worst" you don't know so... yeah. In all sincerity, I hope no one else I even remotely know has to know how bad it really can be.

Knees. Knees are coming up! And the visit with my friend from Drum was fan-freaking-tastic and I have another friend coming to visit in just a few weeks. USO trip the first week of November, and a few other amazing events. Life is good, and I'm staying positive. I just feel angry lately for no damn good reason because my life is pretty freaking sweet. Maybe it's midterms? Which I need to get back to, by the way. I hope you all have great weeks!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Awesome Anonymous & a "promotion!"

First of all, allow me to address this, from my last blog:
You touched my heart so deeply and your words really spoke to me. I stumbled across your blog after I typed in Google "why 2012 is such a shitty year?" not knowing what I could find. Your honesty and wisdom is something that I can only aspire to. You reminded me that I can rage against my life but really it is just a present that I do not appreciate nearly enough. I wish your husband steady recovery and the new year bringing and fulfilling new hopes. Thank you.

So, Anonymous, thank you. Every so often we bloggers get lost in the fray of our own lives and other bloggers. We lose direction, feel as if there isn't much to say. Someone is always doing it a little better. I write for a lot of reasons, but one of the bigs ones is just to share my human experience on this planet and maybe help someone else along the way. You are a reason for me to do what I do. I also smiled at what brought you to my blog. I'm surprised by own amount of whine, but I came to realize that while "raging against my life" (love that phrasing) I am still doing it, and I bet you are, too. I can bitch, moan, whine, cry, and pitch fits every day but I am still doing it, living it, and making progress. Hug yourself and come back anytime, okay?

And now, for your afternoon news... AARON WILL HAVE KNEES (WELL) BEFORE THANKSGIVING. NOW EVERYONE FREAK OUT WITH ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I behaved like a sweepstakes winner when he told me. And when I say before Thanksgiving, I could mean before Halloween but we'll see. They could be ordered next week. OMDG. I AM SO EXCITED. This has been a long, hard complicated road and this is by far the second biggest step taken since life-saving treatments were performed directly following his incident. I am a blessed, lucky woman and could not be more elated for my hard-working husband. Sigh. We're getting there.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Take a trip on the Reading Railroad! If you pass go, collect $200.

So surgery happened last Wednesday, on the 3rd. He was in and out in about two hours then admitted in-patient and stayed until Friday.

Everything with the surgery went really well. On his right nub excess skin was removed and a deep, cavernous scar was revised (it's called a "re-vagination" and I can't, for the life of me, say it without laughing). His left nub had been causing him some pain and the surgeons found out why: there was a fairly thick and angry nerve wrapped around a small HO spur. So the nerve was cut, the HO removed, and he was stitched up. His left nub will look almost exactly the same. His right nub has more shape to it, without a lot of skin bunching up and rolling around in his prosthetic. Speaking of, he should be back on those in about three weeks.

His pain has been very well managed since Wednesday. The epidural came out on Thursday, and he has only been taking his Percocet and ibuprofen since then and not all that often.

We have kept ourselves busy playing board games. His parents are in town and a friend of mine came up from Quantico last night. Sorry, Life, Monopoly, Clue, and backgammon have been the main sources of our entertainment. Yesterday we took a field trip to Target and Aaron drove.

Everything has gone really, really well and while a small voice in my head is saying, "Too well?" another voice is whispering that maybe this is how it's supposed to be! Pain, under control. Recouping from surgery quickly, check. NO MORE SURGERIES, CHECK!!!!!!!! I am so cautiously optimistic. I definitely don't have the long-form happiness gene and I struggle with hope because hope can kill. Hope can make you wish and pray for things that weren't ever going to happen anyway, and then you're just left broken-hearted. But this time, things are different. We can hold our breaths just a little less, and maybe believe that we've been thrown a bone in this whole process. A year later, and we might be well on our way.

I did the math and realized that out of the 13 months here, Aaron's only been in active walking recovery for about four. If you take out the time for the HO, pain issues, and major surgery in April that is what we have left. I don't know if I've mentioned it before but Aaron is also 33 years old. While he certainly doesn't "feel" old his body does not lie. A lot of these younger guys- and there are plenty more of them than there are of Aaron and his ilk- can push themselves to the max and recover in a day or two. Aaron simply can't do that. Aaron wants to get out of here and on with his life just as much as the next guy. It's really frustrating when people credit speedy recovery with wanting to leave. Of course my husband wants to be done! Jeez, people. (I think it's  a pretty negligent thing to say, actually.) But just like we learned in our preschool years, wanting something bad enough won't always make it happen. In fact, the two are seldom connected at all. We've talked to a few other "salty dogs" and it helps to know that we aren't the only ones dealing with these issues and having these same feelings.

But maybe this is it. I couldn't be happier with how well the past five days have gone.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Come Take A Walk With Aaron!



The fact that I put several hours of time into "editing" this is embarrassing. I clearly have no idea how to use iMovie but I will be downloading a user's guide if I keep attempting to make videos. But that is not the point. Aaron walked from the building all the way to the hospital last Thursday.  This has been a long time coming. Too long. I am so proud of him!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

That time we went to a Republican awards ceremony.

Let me first explain how the events office works here: There are fliers with some info on an event, such as what it is, where it is, time, place, and who is hosting. So when I saw a sheet for Center for Security Policy's "Keeper of the Flame" award, I thought about the Ordnance spouse award I received last month when Aaron was awarded the Samuel Sharpe down at Fort Lee. I figured it was at the Center for Security Policy because there wasn't any other information provided. We have been to several formal events through the events office and all of them were military-affiliated, whether it was The Military Order of the Caribou Annual Wash or AmVets Silver Helmet Awards. We haven't experienced any politicking up here, and it never crossed my mind that we would at any point.

But oh, what say you? It's election year? Yeah. Hindsight. In my defense, it's not really my job to research these things because why would I think we would be headed into the land of partisan politics? What would need to be researched? Also, the event was held last year and was apparently a huge success.

This was not last year's event.

I should have suspected something wonky when the hospital liaison told us there weren't to be any pictures. See, the soliders attend these events in their uniforms. Most don't have formal enough suits and plus, they're still active duty. They can wear that uniform as any soldier can. Then these two older ladies were openly gushing about President Reagan and their concern for this election (one of them alluded that an Obama win wouldn't be consider an election, so I am not sure what she really knows). Usually people don't speak so openly on their personal, very divided politics. It was weird but they were nice enough.

But then we sat down and looked at our programs and saw that New York's Peter King was the recipient of the award.  Other speakers included Jeff SessionsJon KylGus Bilirakis, and well just click here for a summary of the event and who said what, as the CSP site.

Obama bashing? Check. People not knowing wounded warriors were going to be sitting with them? Check. Usually the table is expecting us and knows we are coming from Walter Reed and are recovering, etc. Every single person we talked to asked where we were stationed. It was embarrassing. A home state senator (Sessions) not knowing that 4th Alabama NG was deployed to Afghanistan right now (that includes Aaron's brother)? Check. Same guy not knowing who we were? Check. Multiple people had no idea what Walter Reed-Bethesda even looked like, where we lived, or how things worked here. Not even a rudimentary knowledge on it. It felt like we were in a foreign land and they had never heard of us. People were nice, yes. We had a decent conversation with Sessions outside of his clear lapses of personal knowledge on the defenders of his own state. But that event wasn't even remotely bi-partisan, no matter what the CSP site says. There was not painting that horse a different color. Or elephant, rather.

Look, these guys wore their uniforms to this event uninformed that it was going to be really, really Republican, full of criticisms of the current president. Wounded warriors are still active duty. There are strict rules on wearing the uniform and showing any type of party line isn't allowed. I don't blame the events office, nor do I think CSP was intentionally deceitful. I bet they are the type of people to just assume all service members are Republicans, though.

Oh and even better- this was the same day that the vet job bill was voted down by Republicans, even ones who helped author it. Sessions was one of those who voted it down (I don't know if he co-authored, but I don't think so).

Basically, I quit listening about twenty minutes in and drank a bottle of wine. Aaron laughed at me and it was a wonder my eyeballs didn't get stuck in the back of my head. The only person I gave a standing applause for was the sister of a pilot on AA 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. I didn't agree with what she said, but I respect her pain and journey enough to realize that she probably has her reasons for her beliefs and I will not judge another person who has been through real grief. I would've hugged her if I had had the chance.

I am not really sure why tickets were offered to the hospital. It wasn't appropriate but hey, what can you do? Dinner was good. The event was actually held at Union Station, which was beautiful. I definitely would not have gone had I known what it was really about, but that's my mistake. I will be doing my own research from now on. To say the least, I did not watch the "documentary" that was in the gift bag nor did I eat the chocolates. I don't want to catch their... malaise. ;)

So there you go folks. DC is full of people and things who say one thing but are in fact saying another and claim to be something else totally different. WHO KNEW?!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What Would You Do?

I don't know a single spouse who hasn't done it. I know I did, to some extent. It didn't help me when it happened because I couldn't have known what it was like.

Before shit gets real and someone gets hurt or worse, we all wonder what we would do. And sometimes this boils over into expectations on what should be done when a deployment turns horrific. Other spouses and even service members will openly judge the wounded, family of the wounded, or survivors of a deceased war fighter. I don't think people intend to be judgmental or totally batshit crazy rude but they are and they do. And it's fine if it's all kept inside, where it belongs. Or only talked about with people who will still like you afterwards. But actually saying ugly, nasty things to people living an actual nightmare isn't excused. Ever. I have experienced this kind of judgment myself. I don't know a single widow (and unfortunately, I know more than one) who hasn't been judged for how she handled her husband's death. Frankly, grief is a monster and makes you, temporarily (I hope), a crazy person. I would know.

But until you know, no one has a single right to judge someone going through a nightmare. I find it pretty disgusting when people go around talking about "sensitive widows" or warrior caregivers like they are talking about a high school classmate. We are people. We are freaking sensitive. This hurts. It's always going to hurt. And while I have worked really hard over the past year to bring myself down from my high-strung, anxiety-attack-having, blind-raging self I am not even close to being decent. Grief works on its own schedule. Grief is a nasty, mean bitch.

Do I sometimes look at people and think that what they're doing is weird? Duh. We all do. I am sure I have stunned other warrior caregivers with some of my words and actions. I've been stunned myself. But I don't judge a single one. Why? Because- and say it with me now- grief is a a greedy, stingy, moody monster and will destroy your ability to be reasonable for a very long time. I don't know what each wounded warrior/widow journey is like so therefore I can't possibly judge. I might not want to be around people who handle their grief in a certain way that I find is unhealthy for me- but that is self-preservation, not judgment. I'm not saying that people are entitled to rant like loons at all times, but it does happen. And you know what? No one can do anything about it. You can't hurry grief along. And certainly, as long as people live at a hospital (or literally, across the street from one and your housing is a building full of people going through the same terrible thing as you are), emotions and thought processes aren't going to be normal. They just aren't and that is how it is. If you don't believe me, I can't explain it further to you. About the only person I would listen debate this would be another warrior and/or the caregiver. Anyone else who hasn't done this just doesn't know.

I wrote all this down because I came across some widow judgment that left me pretty speechless. I think it's a terrible, no-good, karma-gonna-get-you thing to lash out at someone who has lost his or her spouse. I would pretty much think that these ugly people are in fact, real-life shitty people. I don't have a much better opinion of people who lash out at those like me and my husband(but they can redeem themselves, I guess, after further education). Even if a caregiver is inflammatory, even if he or she says something loony or acts completely nuts, no one can judge this. It doesn't excuse being a crazy bitch but I am telling you that reality becomes relative in this situation. It's akin to falling through the rabbit hole, and even the darkest rendition of "wonderland" can't compare to what this is like, especially in the early days of life-threatening injury. I still tear up and shiver at the thought of Aaron's first few weeks in the hospital. I never want to go through anything like that ever again. Ever.

So why don't we all just realize that yes, that outfit is horrible, and yes, that person just said something really outrageous, but we don't know what it's like so let's just all keep our mouths shut and hearts open? Sound fair?

I hope you all continue to have a great end to the week.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Glutton for punishment.

So I just wandered over to SpouseBuzz, for whatever reason, only to be disgusted. About a week ago a blog post was posted by the wife of a double amputee about IVF and VA coverage and whatnot. She apparently was working off of months' old information because the VA will cover IVF for soldiers suffering from fertility-threatening wounds. So it was a little irritating, because you would think the post was a year old. I wish more hospitals would get with the program and distribute accurate information. Her husband recovered elsewhere, so I guess urology there isn't as up-to-date as it is here. I digress. I won't get into the blog post itself because SpouseBuzz isn't about facts and posts what people write. The title is "I Want To Have A Baby But The VA Won't Pay", which is incredibly misleading and already implies that the author feel entitled- which isn't the case. No matter how the post was written, there is no reason for the pounds upon pounds of ignorance displayed in the comments. I had no idea SpouseBuzz was so popular with trolls.

So many people seemed to think that having children only pertained to the wife, and since it didn't benefit the soldier then the VA shouldn't cover a dependent in this regard. You can't touch this kind of stupid. Others went on about taxpayer money and more than a few decided that soldiers get what they deserve because they volunteer for the military. This was said by not crazy liberal people who think war only exists because people fight and soldiers are murderers (I've never met these people but I am aware they do exist), but by the kind of backwoods "patriot" that thinks soldiers are great but aren't entitled to anything, either. One repeated point was about Vietnam vets' benefits versus today's benefits; you can see where that's going. Someone else pointed out that the wife asked for a medical test, not the husband so... I don't know? She overstepped her bounds? People have no idea what it means to be a caregiver and advocate for someone severely wounded unless they have been there.

SpouseBuzz has never really grabbed me anything other than the occasional "WTF. OMG." because the writing has never floored me, nor do the articles tend to pertain to me. Definitely don't now. Things don't seem to get too crazy over there, so it stuns me that it took a woman writing about how she and her husband can't have kids because of war injuries to make the crazies come out. Nearly 300 comments and the majority are rude, nasty, and ignorant. Or ignant, as they say back home.

I don't know why I still visit spouse support sites. I'm not a military spouse anymore. Yes, technically I am but it just doesn't fit who I am. I am definitely a caregiver, and I like the name "warrior wife" because I am right beside him, ready to help him fight any obstacle in the way of recovery, or even advocate for him. But that's us. And in less than a year, the Army will be behind us. Enough crazy happens on the regular for me to know that we'll get along just fine out there in the regular world.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Better.

I keep saying that, don't I? September 11th came and went. I felt Alex's presence and loss all day. It was also the day last year I and Aaron's parents traveled to Germany to be with him, so I think that was more difficult to swallow than the anniversary of the day he was injured. On the 12th, the injured Aaron became a part of our lives and on the 13th we arrived here.

It's been harder lately. I feel some mad anger coming on. We have been lapped in so many ways by so many other warriors who have come months after Aaron. I think I've talked about this before, so skip if you've already heard it. It's not that I am not thrilled for everyone- jeez, that's easy. Why wouldn't I be? This sucks for every single family that has to come here and recover from amputations. It's a real bitch, you know?! I'm ecstatic for anyone who makes another big step in getting closer to their new normal. It's not jealousy, either. It is very clearly frustration with our own situation. I feel like we must be doing something wrong to not be farther along. I want to "fix" it but that's not how it's done here. And it seems like not too many leaps and bounds will be made until after the new year, so the frustration level has definitely peaked. At least, I hope so.

I do remind myself everyday not to focus on what we don't have but what we do. I have an incredible marriage and honestly, that's all I really need. We're having a good time. I just want more for Aaron. We're so far behind. We aren't young. Who ever plans to not settle down, have kids, until they're nearly 40? The Army is a nomadic existence but most people still progress as a family. We aren't anywhere close to being able to call a home ours and worrying about babies. It'd be easier if we were 23, but that's just not the case. I am concerned about our late start in life.

But it's not all bad. School is coming along nicely and we recently got a membership to a gun range. I really enjoy shooting and am excited to share in the experience with Aaron. He's a pretty good teacher- when we aren't bickering the way married people inevitably do when one spouse tries to teach the other spouse something. But as always, we move past it pretty quickly and mostly laugh.

I hope everyone has great weeks! It's all gonna work out in the end, and after all- this is all temporary.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

This sucks.

I can hardly handle the 9/11 remembering going on everywhere. I feel that all the suffering from war comes from this day eleven years ago. The worst thing used to be a deployment and the awful possibilities as a consequence; now I live one of those terrible consequences. It's fine, as Aaron is incredible and we're slowly moving on. It'll be more than okay in due time.

But a year ago I was traveling to Germany to see him at Landstuhl. And then after I got there, saw him, and went to dinner I came home to one of the worst messages of my life. One-third of a trio of best friends had died in a car accident.

Today sucks. I'm not unhappy to be feeling the pains of a rough first day of my "cycle" because it gives me a legitimate excuse to be anti-social and stay inside today.

Miss you, friend. Always.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Alive Day Weekend Success!

Aaron's Alive Day weekend was fantastic. The younger brother and wife, Adam and Renee, and older brother's wife and daughter, Alison and Catey, arrived Thursday. Aaron's parents, Jack and Brenda, came in on Friday.

Friday night I had reserved some space at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Bethesda. Other wounded warriors and three members of Aaron's medical team made it out. We had a party of about 25 to honor Aaron! My family here came too (they did so much for us I can't ever thank them enough). The wait service, food, and company couldn't have been better. The downer is that apparently private dining is one-check only, which I never intimated and she never said. It's not even in the contract. I didn't receive any help at all from the manager or wait staff trying to figure out all the food and drink. No one with us seemed to mind (thank God) and it all came out in the wash, but I'm considering writing the management. It was kind of a nightmare to be two drinks in and have to play accountant like that. I should have figured something like that was going to happen when the prices weren't on the menu. Lesson learned.

The rest of the weekend was spent hanging out with the fam. We went to the National Zoo and back to the restaurant where we had our first meal here, The Tastee Diner. It really was a perfect weekend. Last month I had my family up for my birthday, and now we've seen Aaron's. I feel spoiled!

And now it's back to the daily grind, with a little school thrown in the mix and keeping up with election news. I've thought about writing about my own views but I am not sure how well-received it will be. I want it to be just an explanation of what's important to me, not a debate on what's important for this country because we're all going to differ in opinion on that. But somehow, I feel like it's pivotal to talk about it, especially considering how I've been affected by this war. It'd be nice to at least make people think but I don't believe I can change anyone- and nor should I. It's not my business (although I will probably be all judge-y in my mind).

I hope you all had great weekends. Mine was definitely in the top five for the year.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Just a quick note about kids.

1. I yelled today, in the general direction of a large crowd of people huddled in the sea lion cave, waiting out the rain. A group of kids 8 and up were running around wildly, throwing a full water bottle (even at the exhibit glass), screeching, and just overall being terrible. The first time is when the water bottle hit the glass. I loudly asked if someone would tell those kids not to do that. The second time was after I was kicked as the group of kids tumbled around on the floor. I didn't cuss, I didn't yell at them, but I did say that people needed to control their kids because things were out of hand. Trust me, I was with my sister-in-law, who is a mother to two (including the busiest toddler boy ever known), and she was just as stunned.

2. I have decided, and practiced, telling people the truth about our kid situation. When asked if we have any I say, "Nope, and we might not." It's not because I think the question is rude (it's not, really). I don't know. I just feel better about telling the truth. War has deep, unintended consequences and people should know about it. I don't have to go into detail about how and why, the specifics of the situations, but I know I feel better having said it.

3. Sometimes I feel like people don't think we should have kids within the next couple of years. It doesn't matter that we probably won't by our own planning and all the crap we will have to do to get one should we choose to impregnate me so the point is irrelevant. It just feels odd knowing that most people who know us think it's a bad idea. Everyone else our age is doing it (and most have done it a few times by the early 30s) and the absence of kid talk for us is noticeable.

4. All of this is fine with me. Aaron and I will make excellent parents one day, whenever that happens. I mean that. It's just a few thoughts I have. We love kids. My four-year-old niece has been in town and it's been awesome. Kids are great.*

*Just seriously, teach them manners so Point 1 doesn't have to happen again. It. Was. Ridiculous.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Day 365: Alive Day!

Well, it was exactly one year ago (right now)  two strangers were in the process of telling me my husband had been badly hurt in Afghanistan. This is Aaron's Alive Day. So what does one do for the anniversary of the day life truly started over, as opposed to ending?

You celebrate it. You don't focus on all the awful, you bathe in the light of the glorious success and recovery that has happened since then. A year ago, he was nearly dead. But not once has he been angry, bitter, or given up. Not once has this family (his and mine) lost sight of what's important. We have all forged wonderful bonds that I'm not sure can ever be broken.

I can look back and remember the friends who surrounded me in the immediate hours. I can be thankful that the 760th's commander was the one who ultimately told me Aaron had lost his legs, instead of a stranger to my face or on the phone. I can recall all the wonderful people who made sure that we were going to be okay. My sister-in-law was there that night, and my mom early the next morning. Meals were cooked for us. My dogs were taken care of by a great family. Friends visited Aaron in Germany before I and his parents could get there. I couldn't begin to name everyone who is responsible for making sure I and my family were cared for. We have everything to be grateful for and nothing to regret.

Aaron, oh Aaron. You make this so easy. You make this so real. We bicker and move on. We cuddle every day, much of it at your insistence. We play like children. We have serious conversations punctuated with nudity and inappropriate jokes. You support me going back to school, and do your best to help me out around the house. It's not the act that means so much- it's that you know we are ultimately, still us, and we're going to be normal. We're just another couple, living the dream. The real dream. We might not have been soul mates when we met, but we are certainly stitched together now in a way I doubt a lot of other people understand. Crudely, hurriedly, but wholly our souls are two pieces threaded to one other. There have been as many steps back as there have been forward. You still struggle, there's still more adjustments to be made- but with you, it's all going to be okay. It'll be better than okay. We're going to live a perfectly normal life designed for us and only lived by us. Thank you, so much, for making this day last year the beginning and not a horrible alternative. You're mine, forever and forever, until we're all used up and just our love remains. I love you, I adore you, and I am happier than hell that today is here. Happy Alive Day, Husband. You're the best that's ever been, and the best that'll ever be. Love you always.



Friday, August 24, 2012

Another surgery, another day.

Aaron had a minor hand surgery today. His right ring finger has been bent since he was injured; it began at a 90 degree angle but was corrected a little bit over the past 11 months. Hopefully, this surgery straightened it out more and will prove to be a little more functional than it has been. Even if it doesn't do anything, the finger straightening out is better than how it was.

We began before 5am. I thought about early mornings while we walked over in the dark to the hospital. Early mornings when he would kiss me as he left for work. All the early mornings last year when I slept on the cot in the hospital room with Aaron, always feeling tired. I was desperate for sleep for months.

But the most significant parts of our new story don't involve early mornings. When Aaron got on the bus to fly away to Afghanistan it was nearly nine o'clock at night. When people came to tell me he was hurt, it was nearly afternoon. Every other early morning was a product of that day, and the life we had to lead to get this far.

He's walking more each day- nearly half a mile. He might earn his knees sometime before the end of the year. Today was easy. He wasn't even put under general anesthesia this time- all the work-up took longer than the surgery. I was more distressed by the lack of recliners in the surgical waiting room than the outcome of the operation.

But it is often still exhausting. We don't often sleep very well, but our bodies have adjusted. Yesterday, we heard about some crazy directive that our company does not feel that physical therapy is an appointment and is no longer an "excuse" to miss Friday formation. I can assure you, as long as the "big Army" is involved, we will all have reasons to cuss up a storm. There isn't a single formation more important than Aaron going to physical therapy. His service to his country now is recovering from the wounds he received fighting a war he never questioned, even when so many of us did.

His Alive Day (September 7th) is drawing near. His parents, younger brother and wife, and older brother's wife and their daughter are coming. Despite being the anniversary of his maternal grandmother's death (which is terrible for Aaron's mother, I swear) September 7th will be a joyful occasion.

Life goes on. And we're getting there.

P.S. My counselor had to take another job and I am so sad she's leaving, but I suppose it will be a testament of our work together how well I do when she goes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Magical Uterus.

People, it has taken me days to collect a coherent thought on Todd Akin's comments about women being about to "shut the whole thing down" in terms of unwanted pregnancy from "legitimate rape."

Do what now?

It isn't even that he believes abortion should be completely illegal (although he doesn't seem to have a plan to house, feed, and properly educate all of these dependent humans because the main issue is that women should only have sex when they want kids or else they are all whores for not planning their children and it's their problem now). I am fine with people who are against abortion. I know many, and we all have our reasons for what we believe.

But no one I know- not one single person- believes women are magical and can "shut the whole thing down." I do not know anyone who thinks women have any control over their uteruses. I only know mostly intelligent humans, and even my most ardent pro-life supporting friends know pregnancy can happen any time sperm is involved, and a lot of that time it's unwanted. Especially in cases of rape. You know, because they aren't complete wackadoodles like Akin.

But did I miss something? Does my uterus have magical powers I am not using? Have I really been spending good money on various forms of birth control for over a decade when all I really had to do was not want to get pregnant bad enough that I "shut the whole thing down?" Did my mom not tell me something? I mean, I learned about sex. I learned about my period. I even learned about the zygote/embryo/fetus formation of the egg and sperm mess. But somehow, in all that science, I missed out on the ability to not get pregnant just by not wanting it enough?! I want a fucking refund, folks. My uterus isn't magical at all, unless you count the ability to be totally inconsistent for the past 15 years a special ability, and causing me a whole ton of grief. It's like opposite day up in my uterus. WHERE ARE ALL THE MAGICAL UTERUSES AND WHY DON'T I HAVE ONE?! Anyone else?!

Seriously though, that comment made me want to take a nap. Stupid old men and their stupid old opinions on something they clearly know nothing about and which doesn't affect them in any way. But that's another thought for another day. Mine are all used up on trying to tell my uterus she has been very bad and I want her to start acting magically right now.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Keeper of the Flame and other stuff.

I don't mind that I blog when I'm angry or otherwise raging, but I do not like to leave it up. Most of my life is pretty great, so I try to blog about the good stuff, too.

Yesterday Aaron and I went to Fort Lee to visit Phase 1 of of EOD school and it's staff. It was a wonderful trip with some of the most welcoming people we've ever experienced. The man in charge, Col. Daly, also had a surprise for us. Not only did we get some banging goody bags, but also two very special awards. Aaron was given the Samuel L. Sharpe award for being amazing in his servie to the Ordnance Corps, and then I was given the Keeper of the Flame award for my service to Aaron (you can read about it under the Sharpe award description). It felt so nice to have my own certificate and acknowledgment.

I could be humble about it, but in honor of all warrior caregivers, I won't be. We are this amazing and we all deserve our own awards. Sure, we feel that we are just doing what needs to be done, but so many don't. So many just let their soldier flounder, or they leave altogether. The most incredible people I've ever met are warrior caregivers: siblings, parents, and spouses. It is harder than you ever could imagine. Some days it feels insurmountable but I succeed anyway. Even the kids of these warriors are great. They might have to grow up quicker because of it, but they handle it pretty well.

I smiled pretty big for our photographs yesterday.

In less-awesome news, Aaron and I are looking at another leg surgery. I asked my therapist to "shoot me in the face" to show my enthusiasm for spending more time off legs. However, it is mostly cosmetic and just on one nub (the right lump of nub). He basically needs a "tummy tuck" and a scar revision. It looks like a mouth right now and has bled where the crevice is. No good. It just feels so wrong to be where we are when so many people have come in after us and passed us. I know, I know, we do good work. But we want to be doing the kind of work that gets us out of here. We're getting there, and we're pretty upbeat about his progress lately so I know we'll weather it well. It still sucks.

I hope you all had great weeks and are going to have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Angry.

I just get so angry when people constantly perpetuate the spread of complete and total spin. They take "news" from propaganda sites as fact, don't do a single search on the internet, and then spread it around like the Good Word. It's revolting.

But even worse is that people aren't thinking about our troops anymore. President Obama brought our troops home from Iraq and I trust him to bring the troops home from Afghanistan in 2014. We are not a safer country because we are there. The world is not a safer place because we are there. Afghanistan doesn't want itself, why do we want it for them? It doesn't do us any good to be there, not one little bit. Mitt Romney wants to rely on military leadership only, and as we all know leadership isn't always hot. For some, war is a business and without business a lot of people would be out of a job. I don't trust some general to not take into consideration his livelihood, which might well depend on war. Some leaders are good at taking in calculated loss: sorry about your husband, it's just part of the cause. Thank you for your service.

No, I don't trust it and no one else should, either. Yes, that's judgmental. But until you've stood in my shoes, you don't know. You don't know the cost of freedom. The only ones who know better than me are the ones who lost their loved one, and that is a hell I thank God every day that I don't know about. I just want to scream. People just don't really care, do they? They just don't really get it.

It is only because of our nation's choices that my husband and I are here. I don't think the world is a safer place because of the price he paid. In fact, the world lost something that day. We lost an incredible EOD tech, a soldier committed to his job, someone willing to fight and not question those who told him to go. He's a far better human than me. He tells me he hasn't a single regret, that he'd do it all again in a heartbeat. God, he's amazing.

 I'm angry about this war. It's personal. It's personal for anyone who has to go through a deployment, but that's not the worst. It gets worse. Oh, a deployment would be heaven compared to this. I have him everyday, and he is safe now. But I'd give anything to go back to the life that's gone, that burned up.

No one should live this life. Not another person. It's hell, it's not worth it, and it makes me angry that more soldiers are deployed every week for a cause that doesn't actually make us a safer country. This life costs too much. They all just need to come home. That's all that matters to me right now.

Thank you for sticking with me if you've made it this far. I'm ranting, I'm angry, I'm bitter. Pardon the progress, ya know?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Politics and Celebrities.

I always have an opinion and I am not afraid to share it, especially about politics. After Aaron got hurt, however, I cared less. I still do. I got sick of hearing about religion, government, who was concerned for troops and who wasn't. What does it mean to really be an American? For me, people who pay taxes (including sales tax when they purchase things), pay their civil fines, obey laws, and want to bring our troops home are real Americans. Religion doesn't matter, party doesn't matter. It is all so polarizing. There are a few other issues I care about politically, but nothing else concerning how patriotic someone is. It's all about good citizenship! And honoring our Constitution, of course- which says nothing of what religion an American can be to be considered worthy. Or whatever. Racism/classism/denying other Americans their rights because they aren't white, straight, and middle class/religious judgment suck. All the time.

With Mitt Romney announcing his running mate, my brain overloaded. I can't handle it anymore without getting really angry about what people think is appropriate and best for our nation. I've decided to quit commenting politically, and each time I feel the urge I am going to update about celebrity drama instead. So today, I really wanted to talk about certain politicians who voted to keep soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan longer than already planned (which is so unAmerican it isn't funny), I commented on Miley Cyrus's daring and sassy new short hair cut. I am going to go for a record here on unimportant status updates. I just can't be serious about politicians and politics anymore. It hurts too much, but discussing Jennifer Anniston's engagement isn't painful at all!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Beautifully Terrible Year.

Tomorrow, I am 30 years old. Actually, not until about 10:30pm. But tomorrow is my day. I even went to David's Bridal and bought a sparkly headband. I thought I'd end up with a tiara, but the headband can be worn again. An epic dress was purchased weeks ago. My hair has been dyed back red and cut into something cute and shaggy.

This past year has been something else, most of which I would like not to repeat ever, ever again. But also, it's been incredible. I have helped nurse my husband back to health. I have experienced paralyzing anxiety and am learning to overcome it. I went from "the unlikely wife" to the warrior one, the woman leading the charge to make sure Aaron got the best. My marriage has gone places most will never know- wonderful, deep, and heartbreakingly perfect places. I have experienced real altruism, true charity from so many complete strangers I can never say thank you enough. These people have restored my faith in humanity. I learned who my friends are. When Aaron got hurt, I was immediately surrounded in love. And while some of those initial friendships from Drum have suffered, I will always hold my time there and those that were there for me close to my heart. Nothing can taint that.

I started school again, took too many classes, and have at last learned to pace myself. Aaron and I have an idea of when we would like to start a family (it's a ways off, but it's still nice to still have that hope for the future). My dogs have been very well taken care of on a horse farm nearby. We have made new friends and family which I honestly feel like we will never not know.

I got to know my-laws and we have a fantastic relationship, mostly because we lived at this hospital together for over 3 months. I know my husband's brothers and their families better than most people know their in-laws. Those relationships are beautiful. I have also grown more attached to my family, at times desperately wanting a piece of me around. I can't say I ever felt this way before the accident.

So many things. So, so many things. This has been an incredible journey. Had the mess and horror of September 7th not happened, I would probably be blogging about my 20s and everything I've learned since my last decade birthday. That seems pretty trite now, though. I lived on my own, moved around, worked too much for too little, had my heart broken, broke a few myself, but ultimately my 20s weren't terribly unique. Towards the end I hung out with amazing people and got married. That's about the only part that matters. Everything else was just the normal growing-up most people go through in their 20s. From the utter nightmare of Aaron nearly dying and losing his legs, having the hopes of conceiving "normally" dashed, and all the other complete shit has come the most beautiful moments of my entire life. I have experienced total joy in the simplest, smallest events. These are the things from my 20s that matter most.

So tomorrow I am 30. Next month is Aaron's one-year Alive Day. We are wrapping up an eventful, terrible, lucky, blessed, beautiful, tragic year in style. My parents and best friend arrive today and Aaron has planned surprises for me tomorrow. This is all about The Happy, and nothing can bring me down (not even the not-funny but not-real bomb threat called into the hospital yesterday).

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Stress Tax.

I try to do so much (like three summer college courses) and excel as a wife and caregiver. I try to do all of that and travel with Aaron so he can explore incredible recreational therapy opportunities. I try to do it all and by not addressing how hard this is I think I am focusing on how much we have and how hard it really isn't (it is hard). I think that if I acknowledge that this life, even with its blessing, is incredibly stressful then I'm dishonoring all the people who do this life with more complications. I'm just going to act like everything's normal and okay!

And I fail at something, inevitably. I of course can't preemptively ask for help because that would mean I understood what I was doing to myself in the first place. Now I'm groveling with one professor, but at least that class is all I have managed to really screw up. My other two classes are okay, and I've been kicking butt at the wife/caregiver work. So I didn't crash and burn at everything, but just burned up a little bit.

But I'm fucking exhausted, people. My brain never fully turns on. I never actually get to sleep. I wake up everyday with back pain and a right elbow and wrist that doesn't want to help me work on the computer. I am so tired and sometimes I don't know why, because I think I got to sleep. I get distracted easily, and I can't seem to get motivated. At all. It sounds like depression but I'm not depressed right now. I mean, I've always got this little black cloud (and there is actually a technical name for that) all the time and I'm pretty much a realist (no sunshine and rainbows here, just give me the damn truth). But I am honestly happy with my marriage and the work I've been doing.

So, after seeing my counselor and doing some serious self-reflection, I realized that my body is stressed. I am physically affected by all of this, and not just because I literally carry more things than most husbands do. My whole body is responding to all of this and I haven't yet taken what that can do to me into account. I just need to suck it up and push harder, right? People do this warrior life with kids. Aaron nor myself have debilitating mental health or brain injuries, so there is no reason why I can't just do this already!

But I'm being too hard on myself and I'm admitting it. Next semester, I'm taking fewer classes. I am taking more time out of my day to stretch my body, work my mind, and relax. I just need to admit that I am not failing by not doing it all. I need to stop minimizing myself, my mental health, my reactions, and ultimately my life. My house is clean, some school work is done, and Aaron is happy as a pig in mud with what I do with and for him. He doesn't mind it when I breakdown at a meeting where we find out that the wheelchair clinic has yet again messed up and he won't be getting what he needs in any fashion of a timely manner (that happened today, by the way). I am getting better at recovering from those incidents, too. It doesn't knock me out all afternoon after I cry.

I realized how to improve: I can't completely change something in a moment. I have to ease into it. Do this a little less every week, and eventually I will have totally changed a behavior.

My ultimate goal is to focus on my abilities and not my limitations. I am also going to immerse myself in brain exercises and the book, The Woman Who Changed Her Brain. I think I need to try new things and reinvent my goals a little bit. I know it looks like a very strange way to deal with my stress, but I think it's going to work for me. New stuff. New successes. Focus on my health and get back to a chiropractor. Work my creativity more. Keep breathing. Keep improving, little by little. And give myself more time to do this. Also, I will actually go to the doctor and address my right arm issue. I am not getting any younger, and I can't keep wrapping my wrist in Coban to deal with the pain when I know I'm not doing anything to realistically make it better.

So there you have it, folks. I tried to do it all and pretend that this life wasn't such a big deal. I wanted to push on with normalcy because I'm so grateful for all we have. I would feel lazy if I didn't sign up for classes and do other things when Aaron doesn't need me. I am not a super human, at least not all the time. I feel like I can do anything- and I mean that, I could dig myself to China if it would make our situation any better- but that doesn't mean I have to do everything. I am a resilient woman and I have nothing to prove. I need to accept that it's okay to give my mental health more room in my life. I tell other people to do it- why don't I? I am unrelenting on myself. And it's time to stop.

Thanks for listening, kids. I hope you're all having good weeks!


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Twihard drama clogging up my internetz!



Ugh. As if some Hollywood people canoodling affects any of us, but everyone is saying so much and now my own reels are turning. There are a few perspectives I haven't seen supported, but I'll discuss just because well, it's in my head now.


First of all, the director dude is kind of a creep. He met his wife when she was 17 years old, and recently talked about the experience in an interview. He said something along the lines of how beautiful she was and how he was drawn to her immediately. They apparently married 5 years later, when she was just 23. Yes, I said "just" 23. I think anyone getting married under 25 is young. I am not implying it's wrong or not intelligent, but it is young. So there's that.


Kristen is 22 years old. Apparently, she has been with her vampire lover Rob for three or four years. That's kind of young to be soul-mated off. And yeah- it looks like that is exactly what happened. It seems to have always been super, super intense. They've been living together for a while now (years?). It doesn't seem like she's had a lot of experience in relationships. God forbid the things I did at 22 be held against me for the rest of my life. I didn't touch a married man or anything like that, but I was certainly up to no good.


Maybe this old dude fed her some bull about how she hasn't had a lot of experiences and it's hindering her ability to emote as an actress (and we all know she has issues with that, good lord). So she gave in and now has not only experienced the feeling of doing something you shouldn't (and that feeling is pretty addicting and tempting), but hurting other people and herself. How's that for experience? What also supports this theory is her magazine interview last month in Elle. She openly discussed how her life had been very easy for her and she just wanted to experience something messed up. Her whole life has been set up for her, from child actress to Bella Swann. Seriously. She has hardly experienced anything worth feeling, other than being grateful, I suppose. And rich. And loved. She probably just wanted to feel some new feelings. Or something. It's why most of us experiment in relationships with different things, types of people at some point. And I would venture to say that if don't test yourself before moving into a serious, hardcore relationship, that things like this could happen.


Everyone's trashing Kstew like she raped this director dude and she should kill herself because he was married and had kids. It's all her fault! She owed his wife something! I hate, hate, hate slut-shaming. Oh, look at the whore, she touched this other woman's husband! It's kind of sexist, in my opinion. It takes two. And no one is talking about director dude publicly apologizing to poor Rob. He was wronged too, you know. A relationship is a relationship. It's Sanders's fault for jeopardizing his family. Kstew's boyfriend doesn't mean less than the one with the family. And honestly, if there are to be scorned-wife/boyfriend apologies made, they should be done in private.


Also, this whole "soul mates til we die" thing is creepy as shit and I wholly blame the Twilight franchise for it. Let's hook as mere children or very young adults and decide that our whole souls and happiness and existence depend on each other! Yay! And let's add in not having any other or very limited relationship experience so no one knows how to handle finding someone else attractive or alluring! Double yay! You know, I loved someone once a whole awful lot and when that relationship ended, I was devastated. You couldn't reason with me. But it wasn't because I felt that my soul mate had slipped away and no one else mattered. I knew something special was gone and I felt betrayed by how it ended (abandonment sucks) but I didn't think that I wouldn't go on and find someone new and better. I was 25 when it ended. With that relationship and a few other intense if not long pairings, I thankfully had enough experience by the time Aaron came along that I could know I was making a great decision by deciding to live my life with him. Maybe vampire boy wouldn't be so horrified and heartbroken if he had not decided a teenage Kristen Stewart was it for him. It's great his parents got together young, but most people don't do that anymore. People got to live a little before they go about dragging someone else with them.


And honestly, I wouldn't want Aaron to leave me if something awful happened and I made out with another man. (And yes, I said made out. No one knows if Kstew and creepy director old dude humped or even took off any clothes. What we see on the internet and in the magazine is a heavy make out session.) Yes, cheating is cheating but there is a huge difference between wanting to feel naughty and sexy and having a no-no makeout session and humping someone else. I wouldn't leave him if he did the same. I mean, I don't think I would. I'd probably spend a bunch of his money, burn some things, but I wouldn't throw away my marriage. I don't speak in absolutes about maybe-probably-not things that most likely won't happen. About the only way I would walk out forever is if he came home one day and inexplicably beat the crap out of me. Or I found out he had been trying to beat Jesse James and Tiger Woods for cheating douchebag awards. I don't know what it takes to be married ten years, twenty years, and so on and I don't know what happens when people feel the need to go outside of the marriage. I don't even know how that occurs. So who am I to speak indignantly? I hear some much of, "I would never ever do that!" and "I hope he doesn't take her back, I'd leave my husband if he kissed another woman!" "I'd kick another woman's ass for touching my man!" It's so obnoxious. Violence and verbal abuse are never okay. Neither are absolute statements about your own relationship when the situation being discussed might not actually ever happen.


Sometimes people do get together young and it works. One of my best bloggy friends married at twenty and as far as I know, they are a model couple. I know a few people who have only dated their respective spouses even if they didn't marry young. But these people didn't seem to get together because "they would just die without each other." It was because they wanted to forge on in life with this amazing other person, and decided to go ahead and get started. Awesome for them! I wish I had had more time with Aaron. But we got married pretty quick even if we weren't particularly youngish. I was nearly 28. He was 30. I don't think about "what if" because both of us were off having experiences in our past lives that would only make us more perfect for each other later. At least, that's my fairyland thinking. And I like it.


But at the end of the day, I'm not me without Aaron and I'd be lost without him. What we've been through the past ten months has been incredible and profound, taking our marriage to places people who don't do this can't even fathom. So yeah, I get it. But I'm not young. I'm not trying to feel things I haven't before. Hell, a lot of my 20s was spent feelings things I didn't want to hang around. I haven't lead a sheltered life and I don't have to seek out situations to go beyond my comfort zone. I have an honest, open, progressing relationship with my husband. I seriously doubt either one of us will ever feel the need to go outside of our marriage for any type of relationship fulfillment, so I won't even waste time thinking about what we would do if anything ever happened. Obstacles are going to arise and all I can say is that I know we have the ability to talk it out, work it out, and walk (roll) it out. As far as I know, we're always gonna be okay. :)


And I hope everyone in this whole Kstew and co. works it out and stays together, and eventually moves on from this.