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?


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!