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

Friday, July 29, 2011

Happy Moving Day to Me, Happy Moving Day to Me!

Today is the Day.  My house is boxed and ready to go.  This morning we load everything we need for life into the RV and tomorrow everything else goes into storage.  Again.  If anyone is keeping count, this our 18th official move in 17 years.  Even better is that it is the 6th time in 13 months that we have moved every piece of our life in and out of storage from East to West Coast.  The six storage moves?  Those aren't even included in the 18.  So we could almost call it 24 moves in 17 years.  Whatever we call it, it doesn't get much crazier.  I've already decided my children will be in therapy someday so I may as well really give them something to pad their case!

In order to make today (my actual natal date) a little nicer, Donald threw a surprise birthday party for me last night.  As I had already showered off the packing grime and was happily ensconced in bed with a book when I was called outside, I was indeed surprised.  So were the guests when I appeared with wet hair and in my pajamas!  I had to make a blushing retreat in order to procure more suitable guest-of-honor attire!

We have a lovely outdoor eating area by the water that is perfect for entertaining.  In fact, several hours before the surprise party I was packing up outdoor stuff and found myself thinking it such a shame that we hadn't even had a party at this perfect house.  I really was surprised last night!  Donald managed to smuggle two families into the back yard, molten carrot cupcakes, gifts and party hats without my noticing.  Thank you to the Williams and Hedberg families for making the evening memorable!

This next statement will only prove what most of you have long known:  I am a complete nerd because Donald bought me a toaster for my birthday and it is the best birthday gift I have had in years!

Yes, I said it.  A Toaster.

The adage about never buying your wife something that plugs in is a big, fat lie at our house because this is not just any toaster.  This is the Ferrari of the Toaster world.  Except it is English, not Italian and doesn't drive very fast!  I have wanted a Dualit toaster for the better part of a decade but it is one of those things I just couldn't bring myself to buy because I couldn't justify the expense.  I don't know how he pulled it off because he rarely leaves the house but I don't even care.  I was giddy last night as I lay in bed reading my new Toaster Manual, which describes my Toaster as "gleaming, sturdy and tough as old boots."  Donald kept shaking his head and muttering things about me being something out of a Mr. Bean sketch.  This morning I smiled as my gleaming, stainless steel toaster flirted with me from the counter.  I'm pretty sure I caught a wink!

It's funny how a few friends, goofy hats,  and a thoughtful husband can cheer up a dismal thing like moving and getting older.  Truthfully, the moving bothers me more.  Call it a fringe benefit but I figure the older I get, the more forthright I can be and people will just chalk it up to cantankerous age!

For now, I have to go make some Toast!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It's Official

Job update:  Donald has not heard from Target but did get hired with a Christian insurance company to work part time.  He starts today.  It's not much money but it will get him out of the house.  Uhhh, I mean out of the RV.

Packing is in full swing and I'm really okay with it except that I find myself staring at all the amazing architectural details in my home and I do feel sad to leave it.  It's not a large house, more of a cottage really.  I'm pretty sure I'll never live in another house that matches this one for detailing.  Every door is beautifully carved, every window and door frame has gorgeous moldings.  Every door knob is antique, every hinge is intricately carved brass.  I found myself brooding over my English style, high tank, pull chain toilet this morning while I brushed my teeth.  And silly as it sounds, I will seriously miss my old fashioned turn-knob door bell; it's an actual bell, none of this new fangled electronic bonging for us!

A month ago I found a list in my night stand.  If you've ever seen my house or know anything about me at all, lists abound but they are usually stickies on the kitchen cupboards.  What is unusual is that it is a list our whole family made on January 18, 2010, nineteen months ago.  Yes, I date my lists.  We made the list shortly after finding out Donald would be medically retired but still not knowing any particulars. The list is what each family member wanted in whatever house we eventually settled in.  It's fairly detailed and has about 25 items.  The list got put into the nightstand and completely forgotten until I found it earlier this month.  Guess what?  With the exception of a hammock and a porch swing, this house we are in has every single thing on the list, including being located on water.  I don't think this is coincidence.  What I can't figure out is WHY?  Why we would we get to live in this house that has everything we wanted but for such a short time?  We didn't find this house.  It wasn't on our To View list with the realtor.  It was an after thought, a "if you still have time there is one more house I'd like you to see."

It is easy to make yourself crazy asking why questions, especially when you ask, and ask, and ask.

And ask some more.

And there just isn't an answer.

So, you fill your living room with boxes scrounged from every business and fast food joint in a two miles radius.

You take a deep, but maybe a bit ragged, breath.

And then you reach for a box.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Target Interview

Donald's interview this morning went well and will most likely be offered to him in the next couple of days.  The only catch is that he didn't realize it was part time.  This does not bode well for buying a house but bodes extremely well for getting him out of the RV if/when we move back into it at the weekend.  We are still praying for a miracle but have also been collecting more boxes.  I really hope that doesn't indicate a lack of faith.

I had an interesting conversation with #1 this morning after hearing about Donald's interview.  It went something like this:

"Mama, who was that guy who talked to the burning weed?"

Bemusedly, I stared at him because we had not been discussing anything biblical.  After a moment it came to me.  "You mean Moses?"

"Yeah.  All those people who followed him around wanted to give up but God didn't let them die, did he?"  Then he turned around and marched self-righteously away.

I didn't mention to the back of his head that since the Israelites wandered for forty years, yes, technically many of them did die.  I believe #1's focus was on the miracle of manna from heaven every morning.  Do you see what I live with?  A theologian AND a know-it-all.  Sometimes he is a rather unpleasant child.  It's a good thing he is cute!

It's looking more and more like the Big Adventure may be back on, this time with considerably less travel.  Then again, even though the RV has been parked for three months it feels as though the Big Adventure never really ended.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Countdown is On

I'm on a 50/50 split; I've come to peace with moving back into the RV but still remain hopeful I'll be buying a house.  As Donald hasn't been interviewed for the hospital chaplaincy job yet it doesn't seem likely it would be offered to him before the end of the week.  He does, however, have a job interview tomorrow morning at Target.  If it is offered he will take it so we can stay in the house.  If the hospital job eventually gets offered to him, well, people start and stop jobs all the time.

Prayers appreciated over the next week.   I've begun what I call, after 17 moves, Preliminary Packing.  In this case it means sorting, organizing and making lists and piles of things to go into the RV.  I've also begun taking pictures off walls and packing them.  Donald has already done one box collecting run.  I'm hesitant to go whole hog on the packing because once I start, I won't quit.  I know Me too well and I pack with the same intensity as I unpack:  do it until It Is Done.  There is no exaggeration in saying it's a bit stressful.  This uncertainty may very well kill me.  When, exactly, do I begin really packing?  My boys think I'm giving up hope by doing the little I've done.  They see no need for a practicalities discussion, generally my forte.

Then again, when has God ever been practical?  How about practical miracles for a contradiction in terms?  Donald and I have had several 11th hour Miracles in our marriage.  For starters, when we were in Iceland I prayed for months that we would get our student loans paid off before we left the country.  About six months before we left we found out the Navy had not been paying Donald enough and the whopping back payment came out to the exact amount we owed on our student loans, Forty Odd Thousand Dollars.  Donald had a dramatic 11th hour Miracle just over a year ago.  His commanding officer "happened" to walk in at the exact moment Donald was attempting suicide.  I won't name all of our miracles; these are probably the most dramatic.  

Many folks would call this fortuitous timing.  I don't believe in luck and I do believe things happen for a reason even if we don't find out why.  Do I believe God could do a miracle this week? 


If He created the universe in a week (and yes, I unequivocally disavow a Big Bang; I have a great Einstein quote if you are interested) then certainly getting my husband a job, selling the RV or both should pose no problem.  I've come to realize, this is, in part, what the last three months have been about.

Faith.  More specifically, my faith.

We were challenged recently to hang on to the last thing we confidently knew God was telling us.  The last thing we confidently knew was that in April, God wanted us in Salem.  Everything since then would point the opposite direction since no job has cropped up, the RV hasn't sold and we are running out of money.  Trust me, I have been questioning God for some time.  He is being silent.  For now.  Maybe being in Salem was only meant for short term.  Maybe being in Salem doesn't mean this particular house.  Maybe if everything had happened on my schedule and my terms then the results would be about Me.  Maybe the last three months means I need to ramp up my faith in an all-powerful God so that the results would be about Him and the Twist family testimony to His faithfulness and goodness.  I have two sons who have put my faith to shame recently by their fierce conviction that God will do "something."

When He does do "something," look out!  I'm sure it will make one heck of a blog!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Because We All Need A Laugh!

Today I woke with a headache, not something with which I am regularly afflicted.  Two cups of tea later I was awake enough to realize I felt sad.  First of all, you should know it took me years to be able to identify my feelings properly so even in my realization I was slightly cheered.  Yesterday we should have closed on our house.  Instead we met with the realtor to sign an addendum allowing us to stay through the end of the month.  Pretty much a bummer.

Maybe a good sign of my stress came last night at supper when I looked down at myself and realized my shirt was on inside out.  Yep, I wore it that way all day; meeting the realtor and also food shopping.  I suspect I was maybe three the last time I wore my shirt inside out in public!  I live with three men; of course, none of them noticed!  So there you go.  Have a good chuckle at my expense.

While you are chuckling I'd like to throw a couple more family anecdotes at you because there has not been nearly enough laughter lately.  I've been trying to figure out how to work these into a blog of their own but I can't.  My eldest son has a serious aversion to hygiene.  Really.  When we ask him to take a shower he freaks out and asks, "What did I do wrong?!"  Like a shower is a disciplinary action!  His lack of hygiene frequently contributes to an ongoing discussion of the reprehensible state of filth under his fingernails.  Even when he washes his hands his nails remain black.  A week or so ago we punished him by having him take a shower and scrape out his nails.  I know, we are so unreasonable.  Someone call CPS immediately.  I conducted a post shower inspection and made a ridiculous hoopla about how clean he was and how lovely he smelled, which is a whole other issue with a pre-pubescent male.  Not six hours after said hoopla I happened to notice his nails were black again.  I truly do not know what that boy does with his hands and I suspect I do not want to.  When I casually mentioned the fingernails and my consternation at how quickly their cleanly state disintegrated, #1 wailed at me, informing me that "My fingernails are Immune to Clean!"  How does a parent keep a straight face at that?  Answer?  You can't.

I filed that comment away as blogworthy, along with another, slightly older comment from the same child.  I may have mentioned that boys of most ages are just plain gross:  they smell, they make noises at highly inappropriate moments (and take great pleasure in it!), they communicate with punching and wrestling, they are loud and wild.  Yes, I lump my husband in this category as well.  Truthfully, I would not trade in the "maleness" for anything resembling a little girl so really I don't mind; I just like to tell a good story!  Along with all the gross behaviors is nose picking, which is one thing.  Eating the pickings is entirely different.  After years of telling my boys to STOP IT, I accused #1 recently when he was just chewing on a fingernail.  Like that's any better!  His very indignant comment, and it makes me laugh even as I type, was, "Mama!  I'm on a diet from eating boogers!"

Pure proof at the nastiness of boys!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

VA Meeting

We just returned home from our local VA office.  Today's meeting was to determine how to appeal The July 1 Letter.  As it happens, we don't need an appeal.  After some confusing wading through Donald's six inch high file the VA Rep determined that our financial shortfall is a Department of the Navy issue rather than a VA issue.  After wading deeper and seeking answers from another office she determined that because Donald is on the Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL), he won't receive his full combat related pay until he is placed on the Permanent Disability Retired List (PDRL).

In five years.

Anyone who is medically discharged for PTSD has to be on the TDRL for five years and must get psych evals every six months.  PTSD does not go away.  It really doesn't even get better.  You just get to a point where you learn to manage it through meds and continued therapy.  If the Warrior should get miraculously better during the five year period the military can put him back on Active Duty.  So far this has never happened.  After five years the Warrior gets automatically put on the PDRL.  And then he starts getting paid the full amount of entitlement.

We knew all this prior to being medically retired except for the not getting paid part.  No one bothered to explain that Crucial Piece of Info in all the pre-retirement training Donald completed.  Seems like they may have wanted to mention it at some point.  It's really hard to believe that we finally have all the pieces to the puzzle but have to wait nearly five more years.  I'm no longer angry.  Just Weary.  At least there is nothing to fight.

In four and a half years we will have a pretty good pay increase.  However, this doesn't help us buy a house now.  Clearly we aren't going to close on Friday.  Without a job we aren't going to close at all.  Donald applied several weeks ago for a chaplaincy position working with drug and alcohol dependents at the Oregon State Hospital.  It's the only job opening that actually fits his area of expertise.  He is more than qualified and it seems like a perfect fit since he specialized in that area when we were stationed in Virginia.  If only they would actually interview him . . .

Mentally, I give the whole thing until July 24.  That date gives me seven days to pack, move and store my household by the 31st.  I've done it in less time but I'd really rather not.  If anyone is interested in a Packing Party details will be forthcoming!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


As with many people it took me many years to realize that friendship is best measured by quality rather than quantity.  I spent my high school days pursuing the popularity dream that forms the basis for so many "coming of age" movies and for the most part, it worked.  However, it was years later I realized that being on a royalty court was a really meaningless measure of success.  I haven't even kept in contact with all those "friends" from high school, nor they with me.  Part of it is that teens are completely self absorbed and can't see past the weekend schedule of events.  The other part is the wisdom that comes with experience.

At nearly 38 I have been blessed with several enduring friendships of the sort that can whether any storm or geographical separation.  My longest friendship goes back to sophomore year of college.  Blythe and I lived on the same floor for two years and became fast friends.  I was her RA and she took over the floor when I left to get married.  We went to graduate school together and spent nearly every Saturday morning having coffee at the Runcible Spoon.  She now lives in Russia as a missionary with her husband and kids; I've seen her one time since her wedding ten years ago.  Obviously we don't get to spend a lot of time together but we read each other's blogs and pray for each other.  That is a friendship worth keeping.

I have another special friendship, not as nearly as old but just as important.  Selma moved to Iceland six months after I arrived and we met on a women's retreat.  She is my card carrying International Woman of Mystery friend.  We generally live on opposite side of the country but she is the one I call when I can't take any more that life has to throw.  I can, and have, called her and said, "I have to get away now."  Her immediate response is always, "Where are we going?"  We've traveled Iceland, Germany, England, France, Philadelphia, and Las Vegas together and are desperately trying to get to Scotland.  We like the same books, drinks, and have the same travel philosophy.  Everyone needs a friend you can watch six hours of French TV with, not understand a word, and still laugh yourself into exhaustion.

In the infinite wisdom reserved only for the Lord, He gave me my Gleneagle Girls long before I knew I needed them.  These are the girls in my 'hood in Washington and they are fierce friends, not just to me but to each other.  They were with me pre-PTSD husband and they held me post-PTSD husband.  Tani is my constant, and best, running companion, even when I lived far away and she was going through the trauma of a husband leaving and an eventual fairy tale remarriage.   She keeps me grounded and lets me know it's not always about me.  Tana forced herself on me as travel companion when she knew I was preparing to drive two hours to see my husband in the mental hospital for the first time.  She didn't want me going alone and wouldn't take no for an answer.  It was exactly what I needed!  Kellianna is the gorgeous, exotic Staten Island transplant who talks tough but has a heart bigger than even she knows.  She is my utter opposite but has provided tea, sympathy and wisdom on many occasions.  I got to sit with Angie and her husband at church, Sunday after Sunday, when my own was out at sea.  She is always up for a Jane Austen party!  And Viola is my inspiration; she beat breast cancer with her own brand of Courage and Grace and I want to be her when I finally grow up.   Heidi is a competitor, a prayer warrior and has a work ethic like no other, Elizabeth has quietly shown me the power of a Godly woman, Jennifer is an artist with a gift for capturing that which mere mortals never see, Sue is a grandmother who taught me time and time again to be glad we don't know what the future holds, and Kraski is my PTA mentor and fellow racer.  Then there is Katie.  Katie is the friend I didn't get to know so well when I lived there but always has an encouraging email or blog comment for me.  She is faithfully waiting for me to write a book.

You must understand, in a group this large and varied, not everyone is "best friends."  We are close, we do things with and for each other and some friendships are closer than others.  When someone gets divorced or their husband is in Afghanistan for a year, they come home and their lawn is mowed.  When someone's husband finds out he is getting medically retired and she sends an hysterical email, they pool together their frequent flier miles and extra cash to fly her "home".  When cancer strikes, prayer meetings get formed, children get cared for and meals get arranged.  When I write a vitriolic blog about the inadequacies of certain US Governmental agencies, Katie calls up Tani in indignation and starts a temperance movement.

Since last night Katie and Tani (next door neighbors, by the way) have sent my Bill O'Reilly letter to three local Washington news channels plus the Today Show, CBS and the New York Times Op-Ed department.  Which, in turn, got me fired up to send an updated version of the letter to my Oregon representatives, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and his Executive Producer, Stu, and to Mr. and Mrs. Obama at the White House.  When these ladies get a bee in their bonnet, look OUT!  They are doing whatever they can to expose the treatment of our nation's veterans.

Will any of it work?  Maybe so and maybe no.  That isn't what matters.  What matters is that I have a group of friends literally around the world that I am blessed to call friends.  It's not a huge number and there are a few ladies I didn't list because the blog would get even longer.  You know who you are.  Thank you for fighting for me when I don't know how, thank you for holding me up when I can no longer stand, thank you for faithful prayers (Mom and your Girls, Emily, Tracy) when I have no more of my own.  And Katie, yikes!  I'm so glad you are on my side!

I Love You All!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bitter and Angry Diatribe Ahead

This is not going to be pretty.  I won't be bothered if you avert your eyes and wait for a more carefree post.

It's official.  An hour ago we received The Letter from Veteran's Affairs announcing that we are getting screwed.  This letter represents the final piece of our financial picture, the one we've been waiting on for months and months.  The one that was supposed to allow us proceed with our mortgage.  The one that was supposed to alleviate our growing financial stress.  The one that was supposed to tell my husband, "Thank you for serving your country.  Here are your benefits.  Rest and Heal.  Love, the US Government."

Nope.  All that would be too easy.

Here's what happened.  After appealing three times and waiting nearly a year the US Navy awarded Donald his percentage for PTSD and deemed the injury combat related according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  A combat related ruling was vital because it allows him to collect both his retirement AND his VA benefits.  Nearly another year has gone by since then and we've been waiting patiently (sort of) for the VA to determine his percentage.  Percentage equals money.  According to The Letter, the VA is ignoring the combat related ruling which means no more money and definitely no back pay.  We are no better off with the VA "benefits" than we were without them.  No idea how the VA can get away with that but for now, they can.

Of course, we are free to appeal the decision.

I am so angry I can barely sit still.  My eyeballs feel like they are about to explode.  I did the sensible thing and made a cup of tea but I'm really thinking I should have added a healthy tot of something strong to it.  I can barely type.  I can barely collect my thoughts.  I really, REALLY want to scream at the unfairness.  If that makes me sound like Ramona Quimby, well then, I'll just be seven for a few minutes.

Yes, we will appeal but we already know that will take months and probably years.  In the meantime we have to cancel our mortgage process and be out of our lovely home by the end of the month.  We will lose our earnest money, not to mention all the money spent leasing the house and paying all its bills.  Barring a job cropping up there isn't one thing we can do except move all our stuff back into storage (oh, I can hardly wait) and move into the RV that hasn't sold.  You'd think with thirty job applications out there someone would want to hire my husband.

If I'm being honest, and right now I am definitely being honest, I am angry at God.  There, I said it.  I am a chaplain's wife and I am so angry at God I could spit and shriek like a Billingsgate fishwife.  For three and a half years I have maintained faith and hope during the black, sleepless nights when my husband was so hopeless he was in mental hospital after mental hospital.  I maintained hope and faith when he was so hopeless he was suicidal.  I had hope when he was told he was being medically retired from a job he loved.  When Donald and I married 17 years ago we knew we were dedicating our lives to ministry, to serving the Lord.  We had all sorts of hope even when I was taking 23 credits, working only 15 hours a week with Donald laid out on the couch because of a total knee reconstruction and saving was some mystical future event we hoped to practice someday.  Now, all I can think is, "God, where are you?"

I have done nothing but pray since we left Virginia in November, maintaining faith and hope that God would show us where He wants us and why.  Aside from feeling so certain that God wanted us in Salem we know nothing else.  I pray and just get emptiness and no answers.  The last two weeks have seen my hope ebb and today it completely ran out.  I'm tired.  Tired of fighting, tired of appealing, tired of praying with no answers.  I've never hit this point before.  I hope you haven't.  I hope you don't.

My youngest son just walked in and stuck a folded piece of paper on the fridge, addressed to me.  When I read it I wasn't sure if I wanted to cry, or cry really hard.  This is what it says, verbatim, minus the name change:

"Don't lose hope.
there will always be a note,
from the angels above for
you, for if you lose hope it will
be restored, for there is plenty
of hope in the gates of the
Lord, for the Lord loves all,
even if you have no hope.
from the Book of #2, Pooslm:  001
love, #2"

I'm pretty sure Pooslm was a misspelling of Psalm and I don't think the Book of #2 is part of the official canon.  So I'm probably raising a heretic but at least he has the right idea.  For now I'm going to have to borrow some of his hope because mine is gone.