Tuesday, November 21, 2017

There's an explanation for that!

My last post was from January of this year and it is now November... Oops! 2017 has been one heck of a year for our family. Between moving, career changes, and a long awaited pregnancy, we have been swamped.

I decided to leave the healthcare field and go into spa and beauty. I completed training to become a licensed nail technician but have yet to test for my licensure. My husband was laid off in March and has become a full time college student. He is actually in the process of possibly getting accepted into an IT support certification program at one of the local universities so we will see what happens with that. I am unsure as to whether or not I would like to continue my education with esthetics, cosmetology, or massage therapy but I've got plenty of time to consider my options.

I am currently almost 28 weeks pregnant! We had prayed for years to have a child together and it is finally happening! No fertility drugs or special procedures. All natural! I am having a high risk pregnancy due to my pregnancy history and preexisting conditions so I have been swamped with appointments. Michael has had quite a bit of appointments and ER visits himself. I've also been slowly working on his VA disability and am immensely grateful for the benefits he does receive. It's all a huge process!

In April, we moved out of Kentucky and into Tennessee. Since he was no longer in the army, there was no point in being so close to post anymore. In regards to what we were looking for, Tennessee had more to offer. Our move was one of the best decisions we have made. The kids are happier, we are happier, and we love our location.

Now that I am pretty much confined to my bed (unofficially, but my doctor said it's in my best interest to keep away from rigorous activity and high stress environments), I hope to write more. I intend on staying home with our new son for awhile after he is born so I'm gonna try to get in some posts in between naps and feedings! Stay tuned, everyone, and thanks for reading!

Time to Identify 1/12/17

Forgive me for my couple month hiatus! Life got complicating and then momentarily fell apart and now we are putting it back together! Whew!
Dear husband got out of the Army on November 20th. We had a surprise party for him and he was legitimately surprised! Mission accomplished there! He had a job lined up but then it fell through and he had to pick up some temp work here and there. That turned out to be a disaster that we will discuss MUCH later. He finally has a job with a local business and there is A LOT of opportunity for learning and growth so we are both very excited.
Prior to him getting out of the Army, he emotional withdrew and things started to fall apart. He talked less and interacted with the kids and I minimally. He kinda just sat in his chair and zoned out. I can’t count the number of times I wanted to drag that recliner into the yard and set it on fire. That’s how much he sat in it. He really based his identity on his service. Now that he was about to be discharged, what was he without it? I can’t say I blame him. How many of us have gained our identity through our occupations? I’m pretty certain he isn’t the only service member out there who put duty first and everything else after. He began pushing us away in the hope that we would give up on him and he would have less of a chance to disappoint us. Say what? I couldn’t believe that he felt that way! We all loved him so dearly. In his mind, though, it made perfect sense.
It was pretty difficult for me to get him to understand where his true identity came from. His true identity is in the things that cannot be changed: father, husband, son of God. Well, they can all be changed but you would have to give them all up. He then realized what he was doing wrong. He focused deeply on his career for the past 12 years and for the past 6, he had slowly pulled away from myself, the children, and sometimes even his faith. When it came down to the nitty gritty, I asked him if he could live without me as a wife, the kids as his children, God as his Heavenly Father, and the Army as a career. It put a lot into perspective for him. He knew he couldn’t live without myself, the kids, and God. I also helped him to realize that another aspect of his identity is being a helper. He ALWAYS helps people or wants to help people even if it negatively impacts him. Regardless, he finds great joy in helping others.
As for myself, I guess I always knew at the very least that I was a wife, mother, and daughter of Christ. Lately, I’ve realized that I was also a servant. Not a servant in a slave kind of way, but one who serves and has a servant’s heart. I find the greatest joy in serving others. My job revolves around providing the best possible care for my patients and clients. I serve in volunteer capacities at both our church and Reboot as hospitality. I’m always thinking of a way to make a difference and possibly help others. I love serving!
What’s your identity? Are you a servant, too? Maybe you’re a helper or a fixer? I’m pretty sure there are some natural born leaders out there, too! Chime in on my Facebook page and let me know!!!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for making each and every one of us unique. Thank you for making a plan for each of our lives. We are doing our best to live out those plans. Help us remain on the right path and keep our eyes on you! Amen.

"Stop hitting my mommy!" 9/19/16

   “Stop hitting my mommy!”
     Those words. Those. Words. I will never forget the first time I heard those words. I can remember every single detail from that exact moment. I wish I wasn’t able to.
     I was somewhere in my first trimester with my daughter. My son, boyfriend at the time, and I lived in Washington. I don’t remember exactly why we had gotten into a fight but I remember cowering in the walk-in closet of the master bedroom as my then 4 year old son yelled “Stop hitting my mommy!” Thankfully, he was told to go away and the apartment manager made her way into our apartment and took my son to her place while the cops were en route.
     When the cops arrived, I lied, said I was overreacting and really shouldn’t have been screaming. After some convincing, they agreed to leave and my son returned home. Thankfully, my son’s father picked him back up and kept him so I could focus on my pregnancy and not have to worry about my son’s well-being. Some mother I am right? If it makes you feel any better, I still feel a massive amount of guilt and shame for how horrible of a mother I was back then.
     The months to follow were a roller coaster. There were highs and lows. We had some great times but we also had some equally scary times. I remember pretending to hit my pregnant belly out of anger and in the hope that my boyfriend wouldn’t leave. Dumb. Absolutely dumb. I remember blacking out in the hallway of our apartment after a bad fight. He made sure to avoid my belly but everything else was fair game. He was good. He also knew how to hit without leaving marks.
     So many people had told me to leave. A handful of those people actually tried to help. I contribute my choice to stay with him to my lack of self esteem and immaturity. I did not want to be a single mother of 2 children with 2 different fathers. If I could just be with one, I wouldn’t look like a complete failure. What horrible logic, right?! I loved him, though. Despite the abuse, I knew there was a good guy deep down inside of him. I intended to do what it takes to find that good guy. I was smoking marijuana to help with the morning sickness and to distract me from my reality. How completely and utterly wreck less?! I know. Thankfully, my daughter is a healthy, thriving young girl! God sure had my back!
     The fights and arguments got worse. At this time, he was also AWOL, absent without leave for those who didn’t know. He was stressed and it didn’t help me any. He started to transfer his aggression to our cat. Unfortunately, my thoughts were “better the cat than me.” Thankfully, that cat ran away. Lucky for him. My dumb self still stayed.
     After he turned himself back in to his unit, they started the paperwork to chapter him out of the Army. In that time, he met some other guys who were getting out. Those morons were the ones who introduced him to Crystal Meth, the drug that ultimately lead to his demise. He would say the ugliest, most evil things to me. “I’m gonna kill you and cut the baby out of you and run away.” Still stayed. “I hope you die during childbirth.” Yep, still stayed. Are you starting to see how pathetic of a woman I was back then?
     On Christmas Day 2009, we had another disagreement and he slapped me across my face. I had enough. One slap was enough to set me over the edge. I called the cops. He tried to run away. They caught up with him in the parking lot. I remember hearing them telling him to stop. Apparently he didn’t stop because I then heard a tussle. He was arrested and spent 4 nights in jail. I was miserable, with a couple weeks left until my schedule C-section. After he was released from jail, I paid for his taxi ride to come back. He promised to never lay a hand on me again. You know what? He kept his word.
     On New Year’s Eve, my water breaks and my sweet baby girl arrives. By then, my dad and step mother made arrangements for me to stay in a hotel for a week and a half then travel back to California.
     Ultimately, we left Washington and moved to California. Of course, I ended up going back to WA. I mean, why wouldn’t I? I was a fool. After WA, my now-boyfriend again, newborn baby, and I move to Indiana, his hometown.
     Indiana life lasted all but a month. He kept his word and never laid a hand on me again. He became verbally and emotionally abusive instead. He obsessed over my weight and broke up with me that final time because I had only lost 5 lbs in a week after we had done an intense detox diet.
     After I had relocated, he had come to visit me and attempted to win me back. By then, I was already dating and very much in love with my now husband.
     For 2 years, I had absolutely no contact with him. I had maintained a distant relationship with his maternal side of the family but even then, I was hesitant. Eventually, I felt safe enough to let him have my phone number. We began talking again and I would send him pictures of our daughter. I even mustered up the courage to ask him to sign his rights away. He was furious. Why wouldn’t he be? After all, I was asking him to sign his rights away to the child that I kept from him for a little over 2 years. I bargained with him, with a bargaining chip that I was terrified to put on the table. I told him I would not lose contact with him, would send him photos, and would allow him to see her whenever his mother did. I didn’t trust for him to see her alone but knew that he would behave if his mother and stepfather were present. He didn’t believe me, especially because he would have no rights to her. He agreed with my terms. He did not sign the paperwork but instead let his time to appeal the step-parent adoption run out. He said he couldn’t sign it and wanted our daughter to know that he never signed it. Whatever. Either way, my husband adopted the daughter he had raised since she was 6 months old. To her, that was her daddy. My ex thought that would be the last of his communication with us. He was wrong.
     He had gotten a job working with a carnival that happened to come to TN. He asked if we would come by and spend some time there so he could see our daughter. After some consideration, we agreed. Even though his family was not present, it was a public event and my husband would be in arms reach the entire time. So we went and spent his 30 minute lunch walking around and playing a few games. In those 30 minutes, he continuously thanked my husband for taking care of “his girls.” Girls? Plural? We assumed he meant me, too. Either way, after we left, my husband said he felt bad. He could tell my ex was having a rough time but of course, had no intentions of just handing my daughter and I back over to him.
     January of 2015, we visited his parents for a quick overnight visit where he got to visit with her for a few hours. We were running late because I had neglected to remember the time difference and he and I exchanged words via text message. I was frustrated. He talked about how I was inconveniencing everyone who anticipated our arrival. Ugh! It was an honest mistake! After we arrived at our destination, my husband and he exchanged words. There was no fight or argument. Our frustration came from the fact that he is not entitled to our timelines. He is owed nothing short of the fact that I promised it to him and that he should be grateful that even after his parental rights had been terminated, he still got to be in the life of this little girl.
     I continued to remain in contact with him. When we went a month or two without communication, I would wonder whether or not he was in jail. He was in an out of jail for a variety of reasons. Sometime that summer, his girlfriend at the time asked if she could bring him to KY to come see her. She promised that they would stay in a hotel and she would keep him in line. We agreed. It never happened but the fact that we agreed was big!
     In the meantime, my husband was attending Reboot Combat Recovery. After the lesson on “forgiveness,” he decided he needed to call my ex. He used my phone because he knew he would answer if he saw my name on called ID. He did. My husband apologized for hating him. He apologized for wanting to hurt him for all the horrible things he had done to me in the past. He asked for his forgiveness. My ex was shocked and surprised. He accepted his apology and they started to discuss PTSD. I knew my ex had it. He never handled it well. He self medicated. He transferred his anger elsewhere and it typically got him into trouble. Anyhow, my husband told him to call him if he ever needed to talk and that he needed to quit with the drug use. He told him that if he was off drugs and doing better, we could meet up more.
     In December, we made another trip to visit his mother and told him to come by. This trip would last 1 night and 2 days. We arrived before lunch. Our daughter gave him his first Christmas present from her. She referred to him as “dad” because she referred to my husband as “daddy.” She still got confused at times but the important part was that she knew where she came from. She knew that mommy and dad made her but mommy married daddy and that’s how that went. That day was a little difficult though. He didn’t seem the same. He had lost a significant amount of weight and had just gotten out of jail. He and I had a long talk on his mother’s front porch. He told me that he was glad I had a good life. He was regretful for everything that had happened in the past. I explained to him how good of a life he could have, too, if only he quit with the life he was living and got better. We had talked about the future. We invited him to our place for Thanksgiving 2016. Things were starting to look better. After that day, I barely heard from him and then eventually went weeks without hearing from him. I was especially surprised when I didn’t hear from him on our daughter’s birthday.
     Fast forward, he passed away on January 17, 2016. He was the passenger in his vehicle and the friend who was driving wrecked. He had admitted that the occupants of the vehicle had all smoked meth prior to getting in the car. He was the only one who didn’t survive. The driver is facing charges and his “girlfriend” who was in the back seat is now dating his “best friend.” But I won’t even get started on that.
     I will never forget my abuse. I will never forget the best friend I lost to PTSD and drugs. I miss him. I told my husband about all the good times we had together. It helped my husband see him as more of a “regular guy.” Of course that won’t take away from the bad things, but it gave my husband some perspective. He realized how important it was for him to get his PTSD under control and treated. He realized how important it was to seek help until you received the help you needed. It also showed him my amount of dedication to someone I love deeply.
     **(Does that mean you should stay with your abuser? No! I’m not condoning or promoting accepting violence by any means! By sharing everything with my husband, he understood why I stayed, he understood why I do some of the things I do now in our marriage.)**
     What makes me the saddest is knowing that my ex’s story ended. There will be no triumphant recovery. There won’t be a family vacation. We will not spend a holiday together. This is it. I will not get to praise him on his progress. He will not get to see our daughter grow up. He will from heaven and hopefully she knows he’s there.
     Rest In Peace, David. You’re free. No more PTSD. No more pain. No more suffering. No more drugs. 

My Hiatus 9/17/16

     Forgive me for the momentary hiatus!
     This year has flown by. It hasn’t been easy and it seems like it has been continuously tough. Let’s recap, shall we?
     In January, my ex-boyfriend and biological father of my daughter passed away in a tragic automobile accident. Processing through that was difficult. I had not anticipated feeling the way I did and am grateful my husband was there to help me through it.
     The rest of spring was a blur. I remember working, homeschooling, and being busy volunteering with Reboot Combat Recovery, church, and our homeschool co-op.
     This summer, on the other hand, was extremely challenging. I started a new job, Michael started working on filing for disability and preparing to get out of the Army, and life smacked us upside our heads. Without going into detail, Satan really tried his hardest to seek, kill, and destroy us. I will save the details of that fiasco for another couple blog posts. Thankfully, we both have matured in our faith and have really pulled through the crap… Barely, but we still made it.
     As of today, Michael has 10 days left until his terminal leave begins and is officially out of the Army on November 20th. Currently, identity has been an issue for him. We are working through it together but it has been a process in itself. Right now, we are focusing on finding him employment to transition into. We have some options right now and are waiting to see what else comes our way. Being the “planner” that I am, I’ve developed a few plans for the last minute moments. I’m still praying for the best possible outcome but can be prepared and ready for whatever comes our way.
     On  Veterans Day, Michael and I will be participating in the March for 22, a 22 mile ruck march with 22 lbs of gear on our backs to help raise awareness for veteran suicide. We will be training for that. I participated in the march on Memorial Day and completed 8 of 22 miles with no training. I’m optimistic for this upcoming march because the weather will be tolerable and I will be better prepared.
     Please keep our family in your prayers. Pray for peace, answers, strength, and stability. My prayer is that you, my readers, are all well!
     Stay tuned! I have so much more to tell!

I love him, even if.... 3/23/16

Why else would anyone put up with manic-depressive episodes?
Why else would anyone tolerate forgetfulness or carelessness?
I love him. Yeah, I know.
I sometimes feel as if I put up with way more than other women in my age range with comparable marital experience. Sometimes, I ask myself, “why on earth do you bother?” over half the things he does. He’s not perfect. Neither am I. But we are committed to each other and I can tell when he is truly trying. He has been trying, too. His current issue is finding a balance between work, family, serving, etc. I’ve slowly fallen into my balance within my own daily life. I’m hoping he’s falling into his as well. Learning to decline people was my biggest problem in finding my balance. His is prioritization.
My patience has definitely been tried lately. Thankfully, we have some truly supportive church family that have been helpful beyond measure. I don’t think I would have gotten through the past 3 weeks without them. Having genuine support is hard. I am grateful that we are surrounded with true, caring friends who tell it like it is. We’ve needed that. We have enough “cheerleaders.” My definition of cheerleaders are people who are there to root you on during your successes but fade away when things have gonna a awry.
I don’t plan on giving up on my marriage any time soon. In all honesty, I couldn’t be happier with it. I’ve seen a lot of growth within my husband throughout our marriage. The man he is today isn’t the man I started dating almost 6 years ago. He has definitely matured and conquered a lot. Could we benefit from martial counseling? Yes, but I think even the healthiest, happiest of marriages can benefit from counseling. The key to making things work is willingness. Both parties have to be willing to try, willing to sacrifice, and willing to communicate. You have to be willing to accept the truth, husband or wife, with grace. Grace. Ugh. I’ve been working on that, too.
Advice: Pray for your husband (or fill in the blank). I can’t begin to stress that enough. If you haven’t seen the movie The War Room, watch it ASAP. It really instilled in me that my prayers over my husband are more important that I ever imagined. I’ve prayerfully made important decisions where I truly prayed over them before making decisions. And they have all worked out in my favor.
Prayer: God, thank you for your many blessings in our lives. Help us to reflect kindness, grace, and mercy as you would. Keep us strong and resilient against sin. Pour your love over struggling marriages. Give the weak strength. In your precious name, Amen.

I Didn't Sign Up for This! 2/17/16

“I didn’t sign up for this,” may be a thought that has crossed your mind from time to time. Marriage in general isn’t always a bed of roses. Throw some PTSD and TBI in there and you’re in for a world of fun. Not. You would think I knew better, marrying someone in the military. More so, you would especially think I would know better considering my previous marriage was to a service member and my daughter’s biological father suffered from PTSD himself. But no, I didn’t even realize anything was “different” about my husband until after we were married.
Initially, I thought the problems he had were due to his drinking. “He’s used to partying and being single,” was the excuse I told myself. He must not be used to having a family. As his drinking slowed down, his attitude and demeanor did not change. It got worse. He then quit smoking for awhile. He got a little better. Then he leaves for SERE school (intense training to prepare in the event one is detained as a POW) and comes back a mess… Complete and utter mess. He would have highs and lows. Some days, he was husband and father of the year and other days, we would look at him with disbelief. He was mean, angry, detached, hyper-vigilant and paranoid.
He had been diagnosed with PTSD before he left the infantry to become a radio repairer. He said that he had gone to a psychiatrist and everything was better. Why on earth did I believe him? Partly because I didn’t know any better either. I thought he had been cured or fixed. It doesn’t help that there is an ugly stigma about mental help within our active duty community. He didn’t want to admit he was having trouble because it was a sign of weakness and his colleagues would think he was crazy.
I wanted to give up a multitude of times. I didn’t want to have a miserable marriage and I was tired of faking the funk and pretending everything was peachy keen! Some nights, I would cry myself to sleep thinking “how on earth did I end up here?” or “what happened to my husband?” Did I marry a monster and just not know it? No. He had never cheated on me so I didn’t think there would be any merit in me leaving him simply because he was an ass.
I couldn’t give up though. I vowed before him and God that I would be by his side through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. I never imagined that I would be living that vow 4 years in. Suddenly, diagnosis after diagnosis came in. It all started with a routine procedure. That’s when they noticed his MRI wasn’t right. Bam. TBI. That diagnosis alone now showed us why his migraines were so constant and painful. Then his gout was diagnosed. Here I was, telling him to suck it up because his stupid foot hurt.. Oops. He started receiving treatments for all his ailments. The best treatment he could have possibly received came from Reboot Combat Recovery, but we will discuss what Reboot is all about in another post. Reboot, in short, healed the spiritual wounds he had endured during combat his first 4 years of his military career.
Slowly, I begun to understand that it wasn’t his fault. I begun to understand that my husband was truly hurting and needed me. He needed me to be strong for him, to understand him, and to accept him as he was. That decision didn’t come easy. I had to learn about PTSD and TBI. I had to understand that he couldn’t help himself sometimes. Most importantly and currently, I am learning to show more mercy. I get so angry and upset with him sometimes. Showing him more mercy has been the hardest. For 4 years, I had been dealing with the crap he threw my way. I was in survival mode. Now, I needed to learn patience, mercy, and humility.
Ultimately, you, the reader, will make your own decisions and observations. Maybe you are going through some of the situations I had just discussed. Maybe you are just so done that you feel divorce is your only option. Either way, I’m here if you ever need to talk. I’ve been at the end of my rope a few times. Each time, I found my way back whether it be running, walking, or crawling. It takes time. It takes energy. It takes prayer.
Prayer: God, open up our hearts and souls to see what is sometime unseen. Help us to love unconditionally and give us the strength to make it through the rough times. Help us to show mercy just as You do. Keep my husband safe and protect his heart from hurt. Help him to seek and trust in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thank You for Your Service 2/16/16

Thank you for your service!
Michael cringes whenever someone says that to him. He used to hate it. “They don’t need to thank me. I’m just doing my job!” Or he’s says “I’m not doing anything great. I’m just a soldier.”
What he failed to realize is that the everyday non-military related civilians are grateful for the service members of our country. Part of it is American pride. It’s admirable! I know I couldn’t do half of the things Michael has done. I’ve taught him to just humbly accept the thanks and reply with “thank you for your support.”
But how are you supporting our troops? Are you aware of the challenges our veterans are going through? How much do you know about PTSD? Do you know what a Gold Star wife is? Have you supported a Veteran-owned business?
My challenge to you: educate yourself and truly support our veterans. Pray for those still overseas. Pray that our leaders make well-thought, rational decisions regarding our military. Write a letter to a deployed service member. Pack or donate goodies for a care package. The mother of a good friend of mine started packing care packages for service members overseas and her efforts have turned into a non-profit organization who has sent hundreds of care packages to service members all over the world. Reach out to a struggling service member or veteran you may know and make a genuine effort to help them. Consider  an outreach project or volunteer your time with an organization that supports vets and service members. Reboot Combat Recovery started when an occupational therapist felt called to heal the soul wounds of our wounded service members and has lead to over 600 graduates completing the 12 week healing course. I, personally, am in charge of hospitality for Reboot’s Ft. Campbell location this upcoming Spring.
My thoughts: when it comes down to it, simply thanking a veteran for their service is a sufficient form of support. Some people may move forward and do amazing things for our veterans while some may be dedicated to praying for our service members. Either way, they appreciate your support and are proud to serve our great country.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the men and women, past and present, who have served our country and fought for our freedom. Lift them and their families up. Heal their ailments and help them to know your goodness, Lord. In your name, I pray, Amen!