Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Trip Down Memory Lane

This is my all time favorite picture of Allen and I together. It is also my favorite picture of Allen ever! It was taken at his welcome home ceremony after his first deployment to Iraq on Veteran's Day 2006. It's hard to believe it's been 5 years since I've seen this man, the one I married.

I don't often allow myself to go down this road. It is painful and raw. I miss the man he used to be. The silly, fun loving, laid back, goofy, happy man I married. I look at this picture and I see such a difference from who he was then, to who he is now. Occasionally I see glimpses of this guy, but they are few and far between and are often more painful than happy. They remind me of what we've lost and that the trauma he has faced will haunt him forever.

The other side to this though, is that it makes me thankful. I'm thankful that although he's changed so much, he is still here. I'm thankful that I get to still share my life with him, even though it's not quite the way it was before. I'm thankful that my kids still get to have their dad in their life. I'm thankful he's alive. I know many others are not that fortunate and I never want to take that for granted. I know that God brought him home for a greater purpose and has a plan for his life.

And, even though, I often miss who he used to be, I love who he is now just the same. We've had lots of growing to do, learning, and adjusting, but we are still here, holding on. It's not been an easy road, but one I would gladly walk down again, as long as I can do it with him. I've learned, that what is truly important in life is family!

Even Now......Gina

Monday, April 25, 2011

Vote for Me!!!!

I am honored to have been chosen as a finalist in the 2011 milblog contest! My blog is listed among some other great blogs so the competition should be a great one! I knew my blog had been nominated, but didn't know it was a finalist until one of the other finalists commented on my blog. It truly is an honor, and I am so excited!! Please take a few minutes to vote for one of these great blogs!!

The voting is now open so please follow this link, http://milblogconference.milblogging.com/2011-milbloggies/vote-now/ to vote for your favorite blogs!! Mine can be found under the spouse blogs. I really appreciate your votes. Please share with your friends as I can use all the votes I can get!! There are plenty of great ones!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

If You Are Feeling Suicidal

If you've found my blog because you are feeling suicidal and looking for help, I'm glad you're here and there IS help available.
  • National suicide prevention lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. If you are a veteran, press 1 to be directed to the Veteran's suicide prevention hotline.

  • If you prefer a live chat online, visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ On the right side there is a button that says "Veteran's chat live with a counselor".
If you are in immediate need for help, call 911. Or, you can walk into your local Emergency Room or VA Emergency Room.

I was just looking at my stats as to who views my blog, how they found it and so forth. I was very concerned when I saw this phrase as one that was googled and then brought to my blog. "I am having suicidal thoughts after being wounded in Iraq." If you are reading this, and having thoughts of harming yourself or others, please do not be afraid to ask for help. There is help available, and you are worth it. Life can get better if you will take the first step to ask for help.

I have had to call 911 numerous times for my husband and it has always been a life saver for us. I know many are afraid to call 911 but that's what it is there for. Not calling could end much worse if you need help. You also always have the option of walking into your local ER or VA ER for immediate help.

There are also several other organizations out there to help. Help in finding a therapist and/or psychiatrist can be found by visiting www.nami.org . For more resources, visit www.bringchange2mind.org, and then submit a request for help. You will receive a personal response within 48 hours full of resources specific for your need. The Karla Smith Foundation is an organization that also helps families and friends left behind after a death by suicide and can be found at www.karlasmithfoundation.org They can also give you and your family and friends support for many mental illnesses, as well as suicide.

Please, if you are feeling like hurting yourself, reach out for the help that is available to you. You are not alone. There are many people, especially veteran's out there feeling similar. You are all important! Please just take that step to make the call or reach out to someone, or some of these organizations. You can get better!

Even Now.....Gina

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Quiet Rock

I seem to spend a lot of time talking about my youngest son, and not so much about my oldest. However, I do not know how I would have made it without my son, Makale. He is my quiet rock.

Makale has always been very quiet, laid back, and supportive. He has been such an amazing help since Allen's injury. Being an 11 year old boy when his Dad was injured made him grow up much faster than he should have. Sometimes that makes me sad, but he seems to have taken it all in stride. He has had a lot of added responsibility put on him, and he rarely complains. Don't get me wrong, he is a teenager, but when it really matters, he does what he is asked and really steps up to the plate.

In some ways, he really has become the man of the house. There have been many times he has had to step in to take care of his brother, a place Allen normally would have been. This can be as simple as taking his brother to the restroom when we are out, to helping give him a shower. When we have went on wounded warrior trips, Makale has had to really take care of his brother because I am busy taking care of Allen. These aren't things other kids his age are having to do, but Makale does them often times without being asked. In many ways, he hasn't been able to finish being a kid, but he doesn't seem to mind.

Not only does he help with his brother, but he also helps with Allen. He has been very strong in many frightening situations. He just seems to take it all in, and is able to shake it all off when it's over. I know there are times when he gets really disappointed because he's had to give up so much, but he really is able to rise above that and keep a positive outlook on life. Allen coached his basketball team when he got deployed and had to leave in the middle of the season. Sadly, he has not been able to do this again, for either of the boys. That is something they will never have with their dad, but they focus on the fact that they at least have him here.

Makale's personality allows us to easily look over all that he does. He would much rather have it this way as he does not like to be the center of attention. He's happy to have the attention focused on Allen or Dreyson. However, I wanted to take this time to focus on him, my quiet rock. I love you Makale, and appreciate all you do for our family. Your strength and hard work amaze me everyday. You are an amazing young man, and I am so proud of you!! I know you will grow up to be someone special!!

Even Now......Gina

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Preying on Vets

This morning I went to Walmart to pick up some last minute things for my son's birthday. It is rainy and pretty chilly, but there were 4 men with little tables sat up outside the front entrances. Their tables were each wrapped in banners that said Help our Veteran's. The banners were in the digital camo and did not have any organization's name on any of them.

I just got a really bad feeling about them, as soon as I saw them. I may be paranoid, but I know that there are many people out there that are profiting off of veteran's and their stories who shouldn't be. I went up to one of the tables and asked them what organization they were with. He told me The Purple Heart Hospitalized Veteran's and that they were collecting money to send care packages to hospitalized veteran's.

I have never heard of this organization before, and their entire set up looked a little fishy to me. I'm pretty active within several wounded warrior groups, and I have NEVER heard of this organization, or even one anything similar to this. I was really bothered by this. I wasn't sure what to do, but decided I needed to say something. So, as I was checking out back in electronics, I asked the cashier if Walmart checks the legitimacy of the people asking for donations on their properties. She looked at me rather funny so I explained myself and my question to her. She said it was a great question, and asked if I would wait for a minute so she could have a manager come back. I then asked the manager my same question and got the same confused look. So, again, I explained. She said that they are SUPPOSED to have proof of their legitimacy when they apply to stand out there. She was going to check for me though to make sure they had actually gotten that proof from this group. I didn't wait around to make sure, I knew it wouldn't do any good. I just really wanted to make sure that it was legit.

I'm still really bothered by this. I know there are many organizations out there working for vets that I do not know about. However, I think it looked really odd that their organizations name wasn't on the banner or anywhere. They had no information to pass out. There were no pictures or samples of the care packages they send. They did however have money bags to collect their money in and a credit card machine so they could even take donations that way.

Am I crazy to question this?? Does this sound legit to anyone else?? Is there anything else I could have done to check them out or prevent them from doing it if they are a scam? Any advice here to settle my uneasiness would be greatly appreciated.

Even Now.......Gina

Friday, April 15, 2011

Happy Birthday Dreyson!!

8 years ago today, a precious baby boy decided it was time to enter this world 9 weeks early, weighing only 2 lbs. 14 oz. He's had a lot to deal with in those 8 years, but still makes me smile, and usually scream, everyday! Dreyson is an amazing kid, funny, kind, and determined!

When I think back over these 8 years, I am a little saddened in all that he has been through. On the other hand, I look at how these things have helped shape who he is, and am thankful for the positives that have developed in him because of them. I remember being scared to death, that Tuesday morning when they told me that they had to take him out, NOW! Allen wasn't even at the hospital when they decided that, and they informed me they didn't have time to wait on him to get there. All ended up ok. Allen made it in time, Dreyson was pretty healthy considering his prematurity and size. Now that I know Dreyson, I understand that he entered this world on his own time, not anyone else's and that so fits his personality!!

After spending a month in the NICU, we were able to bring Dreyson home at 3 lbs 5 oz. It was really interesting watching him develop during that early time because he should have still been in the oven. He did really well health wise in the beginning, but soon developed asthma. He has spent time in the hospital almost every winter with pneumonia, but has always been a big boy about it all.

Dreyson was very independent and outgoing from the beginning. He was especially close to his Daddy and to his Aunt Chris and Grandma. (I think he would have taken any of them over me!) Unless his daddy was at work, he was right there wherever his dad was. Then the first deployment came. Dreyson was hugely impacted by his daddy's absence. My little daredevil turned into a little boy who was scared of everything. I think that he just lost his sense of security once his daddy deployed. He was so small, at only 2 1/2, but would proudly tell everybody, that his daddy went to fight the bad guys.

Most of Dreyson's life he has had to deal with deployments, and now injuries. He doesn't remember what his dad was like before, and this saddens me. However, he still has such a love for his dad, and maybe it's a blessing that he doesn't know him any other way. He looks out for his dad and does an amazing job of taking care of him. I counted up today how many birthdays have come and gone without his dad here to celebrate, and today makes number 4. Half of his birthdays have been celebrated without his dad here. And so many people do not recognize the sacrifices kids and families make on behalf of the United States.

Today I can look back and see how all of this has helped Dreyson to grow. He has an empathy for people that are hurting that is incredible. He knows what a true hero is. He knows that his daddy helped make this world a safer place by his selfless service to our great nation. But, most importantly, he knows that no matter where his daddy is in this world, he is never far from his heart!

Happy Birthday Dreyson Malachi, or as your dad would say, "Happy Birthday Skeek!!"

Even Now.......Gina

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Learning to Let Go

As a caregiver, there are some things that are just no brainers. Things that we do for our caregivee without a second thought. Many of those things are things that they could possibly do for themselves, but it is often just easier to do ourselves. (Of course, I might also be explaining characteristics of a control freak and not just a caregiver!) However, since Allen has been away, I've really thought about the things he can do for himself as well as for me and the boys.

Since his injury, he has become very dependent on me. This is not all his fault by any means. Actually, I have no doubt that much of this is because of me. I've tried to make things easier for him and looked out for him for quite a long time now. So, patterns have developed that are not necessarily conducive to his being well. Much of this comes because he is not able to drive and therefore, I have to take him everywhere. Therefore, there is very little time that we are ever apart in our "normal" life anymore. The other big part in this is that he often has no idea the kinds of behaviors he has during his "episodes" so I have to be able to fill in the missing blanks during most medical appointments and often speak for him in MANY situations.

The 20th of this month will make 7 months that he has been away in treatment. It has been a blessing for both of us. Obviously for him, he is getting much needed treatment and support. For me, it has given me a chance to have some of the responsibilities lifted from my shoulders and given me much needed time for myself and our kids. I have spent a lot of this time trying to figure out plans for our future, but also to work on me. I've tried to figure out things to help him regain some of his independence and sense of purpose.

One of the biggest obstacles is learning to let go a little. I like to be in control, and I also have a hard time giving that up sometimes. I have to learn to trust him again in a sense, that he can do some things, and even if they aren't just how I would like them to be done, it's ok! The world will not end because the towels did not get folded exactly the way I fold them!! This weekend is going to be a huge test to this relinquishment. A small group of the guys from The Pathway Home are going to go repelling. This is a huge step for him, in that he actually wants to go and be social and physical. These are 2 things he loved before, but something kind of new, post war. It's exciting to see him getting involved. However, it is all a little scary from my point as well. I worry about his safety, his decision making skills, and his service dog Frankie. Has he thought about these things before deciding to go? Who will watch Frankie while he repels? Will he be able to handle his finances so he has enough money for everything he needs? Do the people he will be with know what to do if he has an "episode"? So much for me to worry about!!

He had tried to plan a trip to Tahoe a couple of months before this outing. He had not thought about any of that stuff so he ended up not going. This time, he started talking about it with me about a month in advance. It was really hard for me to not to tell him I thought it was a bad idea and that he shouldn't go. (He absolutely would have listened to me.) Instead though, we talked about it in detail. I asked him questions about the things I was concerned with. Unlike the Tahoe trip, he was much more prepared this time and had obviously learned a lot since trying to plan the previous one without any thoughts or plans. He had found out how much it cost, how long they would be gone, what Frankie would do, which were all of my major concerns. So, I told him, as long as his therapist was ok with it, I was ok with it.

I was so excited that he had prepared and thought about this stuff all on his own. He spent a lot of time thinking and planning before he ever brought it up to me. He could answer my questions I had. He is excited to be going and looking forward to the adventure. His therapist gave him the ok, so this weekend he will get to go repelling. There are four of them going along with several people from the Rotary club. He has someone who is going but not participating who will watch Frankie for him while he is on the mountain. It is great to see him planning something and carrying it out!

I will say that this still is not easy for me. It is really hard being so far away in case something does happen. It's hard to trust that the others with him will be able to help him if he has an episode. Trust me, they are not easy or fun to deal with. However, I am so proud of Allen for the way he has planned this all out. He thought about everything! He budgeted for it which is a HUGE step! It will be interesting to see how it all works and I pray it all goes smoothly.

It's nice to be in a place where I have learned how to help him make some decisions, instead of making them all for him. The Tahoe trip was a big learning experience for both of us, in that it taught me how to help him decide that it wasn't a good trip for him to go on. It was great to be able to have him make that decision instead of me just having to say, "no, you can't go." These small steps make me really excited to see how much The Pathway Home has helped him. It has been a lot of hard work, and he has a lot more to do, but he is doing it!

Even Now......Gina

Friday, April 1, 2011

Taking a Step of Faith

I've always relied on my faith to get me through the difficult situations in life. I fall back on it when the world just gets too tough. And yet, often it is the last place I turn to, when instead it should be the first. So, today I took a step, relying fully on my faith to get me through and help me make the best decisions for my family.

Being the spouse of a wounded warrior is a challenging position to be in for many reasons. But the one I find the hardest is the responsibility that lies on my shoulders. Responsibilities that are shared by most married couples tend to fall heavily on the uninjured spouse. This means I have a huge amount of added stress and pressure without a partner to help divide and conquer.

Housing is a huge issue for us. I have written about it before, the frustrations that go along with that issue and the invisibility of Allen's injuries. So, today, I took a step to hopefully begin to solve this issue. I officially put our house on the market. I'm not certain this is the step I need to be taking, but that is where my faith is coming through. Allen's team at The Pathway Home feel that our housing issues are a huge part of his well being. However, they also do not want to tell me what to do, or even give their opinion for that matter. (I think they are afraid of some type of liability if they direct me one way and it doesn't work out.) They do say though that this location is not good for him and his mental state, and that a fresh start would be beneficial for all of us.

I have made myself sick worrying and thinking about what to do. I know that if we do not want all of the hard work he has done to be undone, we need to move. I also know that if Allen does not get well enough to return home to live, I am going to have to quickly find a job to support me and the boys which would be much more doable in this house. So, I've decided that we need to put the house on the market and see what happens, in order to give Allen a safer place to call home. If God's plan for our family includes moving, then our house will sell. If it doesn't, it won't. It sounds pretty simple, but that doesn't mean it's easy. I find myself getting anxious constantly and have to reassure myself that God does have a plan for us and He will make it clear what that plan is. I just have to remember to breathe and listen! Any and all prayers would be appreciated!!

Even Now.......Gina