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.