"Not all those who wander are lost" J.R.R. Tolkien

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Play Ball, Laura!

One of the wisest women I know is a good friend from Washington, Laura Goheen.  She and her husband have successfully raised four amazing boys and now they get to love two adorable granddaughters.  She is one of those quietly wise sorts; you know, the type who doesn't always have to something to say but when she does she hits the nail right on the head.  She is also incredibly humble.

So, yesterday I get a mass email from Laura and the basic text was "here's the national anthem if anyone wants to see it."

I confess.

I deleted it because I thought it was just a mass email and being the technological idiot that I am, I can't be bothered to attempt a navigation through youtube.  Laura, please, Please Forgive Me!  Then I started getting all the mass responses to her email so this morning I decided to give it a look.  Lo!  and Behold!  It is Laura, singing the National Anthem at a Seattle Mariners Game!!! I'm still in amazement, not that she is singing because she is worship leader at her church and her family made records when she was a kid, but amazed because of her humility!  How many thousands were there?  How many saw her on TV?  Oh my Gosh!

Laura, you did an outstanding job and it was so endearing to hear your boys yell "I love you, Mom" at the end of the video!  I'm so proud to not only know you but to be your friend!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Trader Joe's News Clip


Check out the link above because it is a local news clip about the new Trader Joe's opening.  #2 and I are in it several times as well as our shopping cart full of good stuff!!  Look for us next to the newscaster walking/talking through the crowd and then shortly after there is a good close up of us standing in line.  Woot Woot!

Friday, June 17, 2011


I am raising an Old Soul.  Within five minutes of his birth I realized he looked just like an old man (my father in law, minus the wrinkles, to be exact!) and the resemblance remains today.  One day, walking home with #1 from first grade, there was a group of high school kids walking in front of us and they were goofing off, being obnoxious and just generally acting their age.  #1 observed the juvenile behavior, shook his head wisely, looked me in the eye and said, "Teenagers!"  He was probably all of six years old.  He has a genuine affinity for antiques and anything nostalgic, be it old music, reproduction toys, or pickups of the 50's.  He has been known to wax eloquent about "the good old days" which could be be anything from the early 1900's to the 80's!

I'm certain it is genetic because I think I've always been an Old Soul as well.  Sorry, #1!   One example of this is that I have dreamed of being old and retired since practically my wedding day.  The idea of being footloose and fancy free (ie, kids with their own incomes) with Donald has always held strong appeal.  I imagined quiet mornings drinking tea and reading the paper together.  I imagined eating out  and traveling whenever the whim betakes us.  I imagined ballroom dancing classes.  Never in my retirement imaginings did I imagine being only 37 and teaching my boys at home.  Also, never did I imagine wanting to send my husband back to work so badly!  My number one piece of retirement advice is do not retire with someone who has PTSD and does not like to leave the house.  You will go crazy, trust me!  Luckily he is looking for a job and recognizes the need to eventually have a schedule again.  You know the red and green paper loop chains we all made in kindergarten to count down the days till Christmas?  I'm thinking of starting one to mark the days until a job turns up.

So what to do when the craziness finally becomes too much?  Well, you go running for one thing.  Secondly, you start looking forward to something.  Anything.  Just pick something.  I chose the grand opening of the Salem Trader Joe's and marked it on every calendar in the house. If you don't know about Trader Joe's, please come visit me and I will complete your education.  It is a marvelously small grocery store where you can buy inexpensive organic and gourmet food as well as normal, every day stuff.  Nothing genetically modified or shot up with hormones.  I could go on but I won't.  Instead, I'll tell you that I had difficulty sleeping last night because the new store was opening at 8 am this morning.  Yesterday my kids remarked that the fridge was getting empty; this is a huge concern to two boys who eat constantly and in large amounts.  I've been letting everything run out so I could buy it at TJ's this morning.

#2 and I arrived five minutes before they opened and the line was wrapped around the parking lot!  Amazingly enough it was actually sunny today which added spunk to the mood.  The lady in front of me informed us this is the biggest thing to happen to south Salem in years.  Local news channels busily interviewed people amid the island lilt of a steel drum band and all the workers hawking free samples.  The grand opening had all the hum and fanfare of an organized three ring circus.  I loved every minute!  I like crowds because no one knows me and no one cares.  And this was a happy crowd. No one was rude or pushy; everyone was generally so pleased to have a local TJ's that no one minded standing in cheerful checkout lines that lasted 20-30 minutes!  It was like a really big, fun birthday party!  When was the last time you saw that happen at Walmart?

Now that I've returned home with all my lovely, healthy packages and produce I've realized I'm probably a just little bit pathetic and that now I need another something to look forward to!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Blah(g), Blah(g), Blah(g)

This whole blog thing is something of a wonder to me.  When I began it was strictly to track our Big Adventure in public journal fashion.  We know loads of people after living all over the country and I had encouragement from most of them to blog so they could travel vicariously through us.  Of course, it was also a bit of a joke since I am likely the most technologically illiterate person you know.  You may or may not be surprised to know that I wrote a dissertation completely in pencil before I ever sat down to a computer!  That this blog has over 7,000 views is not exactly viral but is still bewildering to me because I'm often surprised that old friends as well as strangers in Slovenia take the time to read my ramblings.  I don't know anyone in Slovenia, Malaysia, Australia, or Germany but there they are, tracking in my stats keeper along with people in Russia, the UK, Ireland, France, Canada and many other countries!

Once I got going I really wondered if I would have enough to say over the months.  And, self doubt whispered, "Why would anyone really want to read whatever it is I have to write?"  I always have something to say about nearly everything but putting it in writing, so to speak, for anyone who stumbles onto the blog is intimidating.  I've always enjoyed writing and my mother has assured me I was a writer since I could hold a crayon.  Remember "Rodeo Rosie," Mom?  Thanks for the eternal vote of confidence but you are, after all, my mother and could be be just a teensy bit biased!

As the Big Adventure progressed I found myself thinking in terms of the blog.  "That's something for the blog."  "I've got to blog about that!"  I go through my day mentally formulating phrases and paragraphs in preparation for actually sitting in front of the computer, generally a paralyzing activity as evidenced by my love for the pencil.  As if living with PTSD and the frustrations of dealing with the VA aren't enough to blog about, life on the road was rife with blog fodder.  For every blog I wrote on the road I could probably have written three more but a writer wants to capture the audience and not scare them off.  You really don't want to hear everything I have to say and not everything thing I have to say should be heard!  Since settling in Salem, if one could really call us settled, I haven't blogged as much because a.  nothing much is happening and b.  I don't want to blog just to fill space.  I have considered ending the blog because it was meant to be for the Big Adventure which had a natural timespan.

Yesterday my friend Emily visited.  Our families were stationed together in Iceland and I haven't seen her since August of 2005.  Amid catching up on six years of information she was bold and called me on my blogging reduction (sounds like a surgical procedure) while at the same time admitting her own stalking of and addiction to the blog.  Emily, as well as many other faithfully biased readers, want me to continue blogging.  About what, I'm not sure.  No one is offering any helpful advice other than Don't Quit!  Then there are the Really Helpful Sorts who want me to write a book.  People have lots of nice things to say that make me blush.  Talk about an ego boost!  Except that the suggestion ends there.  Nothing about what to write, nothing about finding an agent or getting it published.

Here's the deal:  if you will continue to read and be interested, I will continue to blog and be interesting.  I can't guarantee quantity because I'm more of a quality girl.  And if anyone knows anything about getting a book deal, I'm my own agent.  For now!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

VA Update

Just a brief update on our VA benefits situation.  Oh, wait.  There isn't one.

We haven't had any response from Bill O'Reilly but not terribly surprised by that.  It's not like he doesn't have a high powered job or anything.  My next move is to make contact with our state representatives and see if we get any sort of response.

Don made his weekly call to the VA on Friday only to find out that yes, again, they are missing a piece of paperwork.

Paperwork that was submitted last October.

This is the second time paperwork has turned up missing, after reassuring Donald that everything was in his file and we should be hearing from them "soon."  Hmmmm.  Liar, Liar, someone's Pants are on Fire!

Okay, rant over.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Goodbye, Again

The late, great John Denver sang a song in the 70's entitled, "Goodbye, Again."  The song popped into my head as I weepingly said goodbye, again.  Two nights ago Donald and I decided it was time to go through all his military uniforms.  I am not an overly sentimental saver by nature and it would be impossible to save everything during our 17 moves.  However, my intention was to store the uniforms carefully in a trunk reserved only for baby blankets, bitty Denver Bronco's baseball caps and tiny, size 1T Wranglers's but he wanted to throw them away.  First of all, just pulling the uniforms out of their box made me sad but the thought of chucking them into the Goodwill box became overwhelming.  I actually had to go sit in the bedroom with the dress Blues (oh, a man in his Blues . . .!) and have a good cry.  Shocking as much to me as to you, trust me!  Just to quantify, a good cry for me lasts about 25 seconds.  Seriously.  I can have a sob in less time than most folks take in the bathroom.

Donald, on the other hand, threw on one of his many camouflage jackets and laughingly said, "Okay, now I can really be one of those Vets without a job.  I just need long hair."  Right, good luck with that hair! This was shortly before my crying jag so I didn't see the humor at all.  We approached the task with two very different perspectives:  Donald sees the uniforms as representing a job he can no longer do, representing an organization he is glad to done with.  Even before retirement he got angry about having to put his uniform on every day because he felt like it was a lie.  I look at those uniforms as representing a huge loss, something I loved and can no longer have.

The experts say there are multiple stages to grief and you can go back and forth between any of them at any time for an indeterminate length of time.  I wonder if, in a tiny way, going through the uniforms is a little like sorting through clothes after a loved one has died.  There are memories and smells attached to those clothes.  The uniform clear out showed me I am still grieving my Navy loss and that it can hit hard just when I think I'm alright.  Well, the last bit is always debatable but you know what I mean!  I don't think I'm quite over tossing the uniforms because the boxes haven't made it to Goodwill yet.  We saved the insignias because they are special and small.  We saved the cammies and shipboards for the boys.  And yes, I saved those Blues!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Dear Bill O'Reilly

In the course of several conversations this week Donald and I were encouraged to seek outside help in terms of getting answers about the as yet unreceived VA benefits.  Outside help such as Congressional Representatives and military supportive media Big Shots like Bill O'Reilly.  My father in law is a huge O'Reilly fan; not having cable ourselves, we listen in when we are visiting Montana.  At this point I am pretty much ready to write to Santa Claus.  It occurred to me that you, my faithful readers, may be interested in what I wrote to Mr. O'Reilly.  I would love to hear any and all comments.

Dear  Mr. O’Reilly,

Our government can enlist, train and send a new recruit off to war in a matter of months.  Officers take perhaps slightly longer.  Thanks to amazing technology and the near elimination of hand-to-hand combat the vast majority of our sailors, soldiers, marines, and airmen no longer return home in the body bags so common during previous Conflicts.  Make no mistake; whether they realize it or not, whether they admit it or not, and whether they choose to seek help or not many are still returning as Wounded Warriors.

The statistics on soldiers returning with PTSD and Combat Trauma are staggering and you probably know them better than I; any Google search will yield numbers from 10-20% and nearly all surveys indicate that less than half actually seek help.  Of course, the effects are highly individualized but those effects will be felt by at least 10 people surrounding the Warrior.  Think about that ripple.  Those who choose to get help can receive medical attention relatively quickly but attempting to get the government to take responsibility with benefits is fighting another battle, albeit on the home front.

I am married to a Wounded Warrior.  My husband was a US Navy Chaplain who was injured in a combat training simulation in December 2007.  The injury occurred stateside as part of a work up to deployment in March 2008.  My husband nearly drowned, upside down, in a helicopter simulator.  As a result he suffers PTSD and acute depression.  I have watched my Warrior, my Man of Faith, fight his depression and his faith to the brink of suicide, earning him three stays in military mental hospitals.  When his command decided to seek a medical retirement (December 2009) it took nine months and multiple appeals for a medical board to acknowledge a correlation between his PTSD and his depression.  To us this felt like eternity and was beyond stressful.  Others have had to wait years. To date, we are still waiting to hear about his benefits from Veteran’s Affairs.  Initially he was told he was on a fast track of 3-5 months waiting; that was in October 2010.  Since March he has been calling the VA once or twice every week and the only answer he receives is that his file is waiting to be reviewed and there is nothing he can do.  Sadly, this is not abnormal.  Nearly all veterans fight a similar battle.

Our life, financially speaking, is rather hanging in the balance.  When faced with medical retirement, and the uncertainty of what a highly trained minister could do in a civilian world when no longer able to do formal ministry, our family decided to buy an RV and travel the country, living off a modest retirement income and savings.  Our intent was to try to spend quality time together with hopes of healing a little of the pain incurred over the past several years.  We travelled with our two boys from November 2010 to April 2011 (www.thetwistwanderers.blogspot.com details our life on the road) when we decided to settle in Salem, Oregon.  Believing we would be hearing from the VA any minute we began negotiations on a home in a lease to buy situation.  We have moved 17 times in 17 years of marriage and this is our first home purchase.  Our savings is diminishing and because we must provide proof of income for our mortgage process to continue and we have no idea when we will hear from the VA my husband has put in over 20 job applications, without a single response.  Instead of having benefits coming in monthly, which would allow him the “luxury” of further healing, the cycle of frustration/anxiety with the VA causes his PTSD symptoms to worsen.  Furthermore, because of how his medical board convened, his injury was determined “combat related,” according to the UCMJ, and should allow him to receive both retirement and VA benefits; this is not normally the case.  Our concern is will the VA recognize this so that there is no interruption with the military retirement already being received.  The VA seems to be wholly unaware of UCMJ policy, expressing this to my husband on numerous occasions.

Our military members choose to sign the dotted line.  It’s not glamorous and most do not get paid what they are worth.  To have to continually fight to get benefits after being injured in the line of duty is unthinkable.  The worst part is that there is no smooth avenue for veterans and their spouses to get the help and answers they need in a timely fashion.  It regularly takes 45 minutes to get through the line to the VA.  Their website, which they highly recommend for checking status, is virtually unnavigable.  My husband and I have master’s degrees and we have yet to figure it out. 

My plea is this:  while awareness of PTSD is becoming more and more widespread there needs to be clear channels of communication and quicker decisions regarding benefits.  The military and the government need to be in close contact with how they are going to work together on this specific issue.  My husband is weary of talking to the VA only to be told “We’ve never heard that before.”  Our story is not a one off; I attended a retreat for wives of Combat Trauma/PTSD victims in Colorado last month and I heard stories worse than ours.  This should not be my soapbox alone.  This needs to be our nations soapbox.  Wounded Warriors should not have to continue fighting when they get home; they should be allowed to seek healing and refuge aided by whatever benefits they are entitled to receive.  I’d love to advocate help for my husband and the rest our nation’s veterans but don’t know how on my own.  Surely you may have some ideas?

Sincerely and with hope,

Denise J Twist
USN CHC (Ret) Wife and Patriot (not Pinhead)