Monday, February 17, 2014

Why I have Kept Quiet...

Since we moved to Macon, I have really slacked when it comes to blogging. I have bottled things so deep within myself that I in ways, I lost myself. Yet, at the same time, I have also gained a sense of who I am as a person since we moved here. Not sure if that even adds up to many.

When we first moved, we were still adjusting to Kevin being home all the time, as well as his injuries. That alone was a lot to take in. Factor in some of my own medical issues and things become intense and full of chaos. Yet, we have found ways that work for us in the rough moments and we have managed to cope with the losses we have been faced with.

Moving back to Georgia was suppose to be a dream come true. It was suppose to answer so many prayers for us. Truth be told, it has caused more hardships and heartache. This is the first time I have publicly stated this. The past year and a half has not been the blessing we were looking forward to and has instead been a hell we never imagined. Don't misconstrue my words into thinking that we are not grateful for the opportunity we were given, because each one of us will be forever grateful and honored for this opportunity. Sadly, not every home will work for every family. We fell into that small category of it not working out. Through it all, we have kept our heads held high and even joke that "it's just a bad PCS". Some will find the humor in that, others will possibly get pissed that we even made it a joke. But, it's our way of coping with the past nineteen months. If we don't find the humor in it, we will fall apart and living here, that would have been so easy to do.

Recently, when I mentioned that we have been looking at houses, some of the reactions were very unexpected and quite hurtful. I have had some negative reactions when we mentioned we are planning to sell our house and move very soon. People instantly try to throw us under the bus, assuming all the wrong things. In fact, if these same people knew the truth in the reality that we have lived, they would be less quick to judge and more apt to understanding our situation. As I said, we are very honored, blessed, and grateful for the opportunity we have been given. Unfortunately,  this area has not worked for us, nor will it ever work.

To know me, means that you know I have never been a racist person. In fact, I am a firm believer that all should be treated equally and that it takes hard work to move forward in life. Race should never play an issue in what is earned. People that base it on race are ignorant. With that being said, I have also never lived in a place such as East Macon. Racism plays a huge impact on day to day life here on my family. Right after we moved here, we had a neighbor tell us in the most straight forward way I have ever heard, that "white people do not belong here". Talk about a kick in the damn stomach. Really??? How was it even possible that we were "welcomed" in such a derogatory way? Following that comment, we began to notice little things about the area we live in. Here we are nineteen months later and I can say without any doubt, we have NEVER been welcomed where we live. The people around us could not be more clear on how disapproving they are about us living here. And while I cannot say every single person, I can say 99% of the people. They won't look in our direction and if they do, it is with nasty and angry looks. When we wave, the laugh and look the other direction. Needless to say, we have just quit making any attempts. I am not even sure I can find the words that would describe the discomfort we feel with where we live or the bitterness that has been built inside of us.

Two months after we moved in, a twenty year old kid (piece of crap) tried to befriend Kevin for all the wrong reasons. I was in the house cleaning one morning when Kevin and this guy walked inside. I watched as he scanned our house, which made me feel very uncomfortable. The guys had come into the kitchen for water, which at that time I had no idea that Kevin was allowing him inside on purpose. Kevin already had the uneasy feelings toward him. I followed them outside to see who this guy was and as he scanned our garage and the outside, he proceeded to inform us how some of the houses had cameras outside and inside. Let me just tell you, there was no feelings of comfort upon hearing him say this. Curiosity began to come into play, because how the hell would he know this?

A couple weeks later, Kevin was fishing and I was in the bathroom getting ready for a Thirty-One party I had that evening when it all made sense. Kevin has a terrible tendency leaving doors unlocked, which of course I have become very known in triple checking everything even more since moving here. On this particular Friday, Riley (my Pit Bull) was lounging on my bed and I was in the bathroom drying my hair. Out of nowhere, I heard the most fierce growl and bark I have ever heard from her and a loud thump as she jumped off our bed and took off down the stairs. Within a matter of seconds, I also heard our front door slam. Someone had been in my house and had Riley not become as protective as she had.... Oh I cringe at the thought of even finishing that sentence.

I grabbed my pistol and called Kev to check where he was. He told me that he was just packing things up to come home, which he was only a few minutes away at the Ocmulgee River. When he heard the slight panic in my voice and after I explained what had happened, he hauled ass to get home. Of course, telling me to get Riley and lock the bedroom door until he was there. You all know that in no way did I listen to that. Instead, I loaded my gun, grabbed Riley and with her head to tail Mohawk, we searched the house. She had ripped the curtains down by the front door when she took off after the guy that was in our house. We know who it was and after this, he never showed his face again around here. He saw Kev's truck was gone and took the opportunity to enter our house. Everyday I am more and more thankful for Riley. I cannot even begin to fathom how things could have turned out had she not been with me.

The following day, we had the alarm company here installing a house alarm.

Seeing the cops use to be intimidating to my children. To see someone arrested was only done on the show Cops. Now, unlike most little ones, when they see law enforcement it is no big deal, just as when they see someone being arrested - it is no big deal. Sadly, because it is so common to see around this area. Our house is so nice, just as the neighborhood is when looking at it. My, how looks can be deceiving. We have had to call the cops on gang members loitering. My children have seen arrests made on our street. Hell, we have all witnessed multiple drug deals next to us - yet, the cops do nothing. Kevin has had to break up fights, including numerous fights with weapons. Do you realize how that affects someone with PTSD? It's not a good thing at all.

Kevin has been at the gas station and been threatened to where he has had to show force. Neither of us can even leave our house now without carrying our pistols because of how dangerous it is in East Macon. Hell, we can't even sit outside safely. I have had to pull mine out a few times in order to get thugs away from my car... Even driving one night, I had a group step out in front of my car on a main  highway, trying to approach me until they saw me pull my gun out. Why in the hell does it have to come to that? And what made it worse, I had my daughter in the car with me!

When walking through Wal-Mart with my daughter, we had a group of black gangster looking guys follow us through the store, making derogatory comments, talking about how they would "F**K me like..." and worse. Then, when I grabbed my daughters hand and kept trying to walk away, comments about me being a "white bitch" and "too f**king good" and let them find me away from the store... You get the point. It was bad and I am not even touching on the it all. It left my daughter in tears and scared.

Speaking of my daughter, last school year was hell in many ways for my children. Caitlin was picked on for being white. When she spoke, a group of girls would make comments such as "You know how white people are". This gets said and I cringe. What in the world are the parents teaching these children? Children aren't born with that kind of hatred. It is taught in the home, in their surroundings. My children never knew about racism or how harsh it could be until we moved here. We lived in El Paso, TX - on the USA/Mexican boarder and were the one of very few whites that lived where we did. My children were the only white kids in their classes, yet we never had issues. The hardest part was the language barrier. Past that, there was never an issue, especially not a racist issue. Last school year, Breanna was threatened multiple times to get "beat up" to the point of this girl telling her she was going to "beat her ass in the bathroom". That is the point that I had to step in, making sure that Bre was never in the restroom at the same time as this kid. Comments were made last year, with a couple girls calling Bre a "honky bitch" or other racial slurs. Yet, Bre kept her head high and never retaliated even though she was dying inside to fight back. We explained to her and Caitlin that only ignorant people behave in such a trashy way.

Nic hopped in the truck after school one day last year and said, "What up my nigga?" to Kevin. I was in such shock that I could not even speak. I am talking mouth on the ground kind of shock! Kev turned bright red, full of anger. Not directed at Nic, but at the fact that our five year old son had just said those words! Once we gained our composure, we explained to Nic why he is NEVER to say that word and how bad it is, then we asked him where he heard that. To our absolute disbelief, he explained that a couple kids in his class say it all the time. At five he had no  idea that he said anything bad at all. His head dropped and he apologized, feeling so guilty. We let him know that we were not mad or upset with him, but how that word is wrong and how it will hurt other people by saying it.

So, here is the dilemma on that... How can we make our kids see how ugly the N word is, when around here it is used all the time? We hear it every time we go outside. The guys stand in groups talking loudly, calling each other this. We do  have one neighbor that flipped out on someone when they referred to him as their "nigga". For the record, I was very happy to see this happen! He made it clear that he is "no ones nigga" and how much he despises the word. He too cannot understand how people can walk around referring to each other in such a degrading manner. It's not okay, people! It is in no way acceptable to walk around, referring to ones self or to others as "niggas". It is so insulting. The only way to get away from this word is to 100% QUIT using it!!! Since we had this one instance with Nic, he has never said it again and is quick to call someone out when he hears it. Again, what are people teaching their kids out here???

This school year has been a bit different. Caitlin has a good teacher, but still struggles to make friends. Bre is in a decent middle school and has had no issue making friends there. We have to drive her across Macon to attend it because the school she is zoned for is in the middle of the ghetto, full of gangs and drugs. No exaggeration at all. Had some strings not been pulled by some amazing people to get Bre into this school, we would have home schooled her this year. Nic attended the elementary school here the first month and a half, but it seemed like every day we would receive a call that he was a "distraction in class" and to come pick him up or that he was violent. WHAT? That child has NEVER showed any violent tendencies in school or towards anyone other than his sisters. And we all know that is due to them being siblings. He ended up getting suspended due to all of this, so we made the decision to  home school him. Well, home school + a PTSD husband DO NOT mix! After three months of homeschooling, we decided to enroll him back at the elementary under the conditions that he had a particular teacher. Thankfully, the school agreed upon it and made it happen. Since he has returned to school we have had no issues at all and he is even reading and retaining things a lot better! He is also making friends, where as before, he could not find a place where he belonged and was actually isolated from the other kids. We are very happy with his teacher now and how well things are going for him! Thank you, Mrs. Palmer for making such a difference in our little mans life!!!

Since moving here, we have been a witness to child neglect and child abuse. We saw it for months right next to us, with the county doing absolutely nothing. We have had to call the cops and talk to the cops more times than what I can recall. A "mother" left her eight children  home alone for days with no food, yet this county never saw fit to step in. We would feed her kids. We have bought their school supplies, while she lied and played the system. It still breaks my heart. Kevin has had to go into the area run by gangs and drugs to pick up an infant and toddler that were left with a disabled grandmother because the babies had no food. They would return here wearing either nothing or stained clothing that was days old, reeking of filth. They had not had baths in there is no telling how long. So, I would run out to pick up a new outfit for each of them, baby wash, shampoo, and lotion. I would bathe them both, watching an unknown fear flash across their faces as they were unfamiliar with being clean. Once clean, the toddlers face would light up with excitement and he ran around the house playing with Nicholas. As the infant inhaled the formula I purchased, he would stop eating and look at me with a smile, as though he were saying "thank you". My heart melted as I held him, fed him, and as he smiled the cutest smile, then babbled in baby talk. How could a mother not care where her babies were? How could she not care for them? The back of the infants head was so flat from where he was just left laying on his back all the time. Now, I have no idea of the condition either of these babies are in, as I have not seen them since October. I just don't get it... Those babies and all the boys deserve so much more than they have ever been given. We see one of them often and know he is heading down the wrong path. But, there is nothing we can do. We have exhausted all of our resources and made ourselves literally sick trying and trying for this county to do something. We have talked to CPS countless times, for the case worker to turn his back on us and tell the "mother" everything that we told him. Which, we all know is illegal. Yet it happened and nothing was done to this man.  No one cared!

One day, while we were outside with the kids, Bre walked out wearing shorts that she wears around the house. She would typically never step outside in them, but did to ask us a question. Keep in mind, she was 11 when this occurred. A teenage boy could not keep his eyes off of my daughter, then had the nerve to tell me and Kevin that "white girls are a game and token to the black boys around here". Yes, you read that right. Since there are so few white girls, they make it a game to have sex with them with no care about respect or even the age of the girl. Without us knowing, attention had been focused on my eleven year old daughter. White girls are a novelty. If I shared what I said, I would probably be locked up so I will leave it alone. Anger took over and all I could think is where I would bury a body if someone touches my daughter. Shortly after we moved here, word got out about a group of black boys raping a white girl in the bathroom at a local middle school. No respectable man would ever consider this to be an okay thing. These actions are boys, playing an ignorant game that is going to get someone killed.

On this same day, we were informed that when the black men see white men in this area, they "size them up, looking for a fight because white mean aren't worth a damn". I can't make this crap up. I remember standing in my garage speechless over that comment, simply wondering what they hell we were thinking with moving here.

Not too long ago, while we were away for the day, some comments were made by our neighbors. These are people that Kev would BS with while smoking and even some that we have helped out in many ways - never asking anything in return, even loaning a small amount of money too. Yet, as soon as we were away, they felt the need to bash us. "The white people don't work, yet always have money..." and so on. I can't remember all that was said, but it was way more than that and pretty harsh. My thing though, why does our checkbook matter to anyone? It is no ones business how much money we have or don't have. Guess what? My bills are paid before extras are bought. So, if you want to judge, look in the mirror while you are drinking your alcohol, yet having utilities cut off every month. Priorities are so jacked up around here.

Some of the parents out here are so focused on wrong doings, such as drugs and gang activity, that they neglect their children. In return, the only real meal these kids receive is what is provided at the school. We all know that school lunches are really not that good. A few weeks ago Nic had Saturday school. This day was set up for kids that were struggling with a certain subject, not as a punishment. I walked Nic into the school and heard a kid ask about breakfast. The principal told him that they weren't serving breakfast that day, only Monday through Friday. I watched as this little boys whole demeanor was shattered. His parents had sent him to school without breakfast and he was so hungry. We see this all the damn time out here! These same kids that get nothing have the moms that show up with their hair done, clean clothes and nails done. How in the hell can a mother put her own needs before her children like that? I would wear rags if it meant my kids could eat. There is no way in hell I would take care of me before my children!

We have been called in the middle of the night to search for a girl, barely fourteen that was missing. After searching and searching, only for the cop to find her on her knees with a boy that was twenty years old. Then later for a twenty-one year old having sex with a thirteen year old. This is what surrounds us! My children are not allowed in the front yard unless we are with them, which means they can't even ride their bikes on our street without us! They can go in the backyard, which is fenced in with a six foot privacy fence as long as Riley is outside with them.

For nineteen months, my children and my family has had to endure what you have just read and much more. I just touched on some of the things we have witnessed. I would have to write for hours and hours to tell it all. My children have been subjected to a world that I never knew existed. I never imagined things would be this bad. When we first learned that we were moving here, we pulled up the stats of this area. We saw that it is predominately black, but weren't concerned with that. Why would we be? Being raised just outside of Atlanta my whole life and living the military life for almost ten years, we never faced true racial issues. When we hung out with friends, 9 times out of 10 in the army, we were the minority - but skin color didn't matter.  Living here has been an eye opener and while it has proven to be a very difficult time, I can only hope that my children leave here when we move stronger and with a different outlook on life.

While we have seen more bad than good, they know that you can't judge someone based on race. White, black, hispanic or any other race - there are good and bad people. You can't run from the bad, but you can embrace the good. I have friends of all races and to me, they are just people. I am so thankful we spent so long living the AD Army life and that the girls remember all the amazing people we met. I hate that living here has been Nic's first experience that he will remember being the minority. I don't want him to take the bitterness he has come to learn. As his mother, I know that it is my job to teach him otherwise. Not all that we have met here have been bad, which all the kids have seen. We have met some awesome black individuals that we will remain in contact with after we move. They have made a difference in each of our lives.

So many parents are not parents out here. They let their children run the houses. Hell, some allow their very young students to attend school with pot and knives in their back packs. This county cannot keep track of all the fights that break out or all the weapons that are discovered in bags or lockers at the schools. Parents, we are raising the future. Step up, be a parent. Be concerned with what your children are doing and where they are in life. Don't walk around making derogatory comments, degrading one another. Show some respect for yourself as well as those around you. Our actions as parents are molding our children into who they are and who they will be. Step up, because the little ones are watching every move we make. They are taking it all in with every word that escapes our lips. East Macon is headed in the wrong direction, just as other parts of Macon are. My heart breaks that some of these kids will grow up knowing only what they live in, the obstacles in life that will hold them back from doing well.

I know that as people go from a minor into adulthood, the choices they make are ultimately theirs, but when you see what I have seen and hear what I have heard, you gain a perspective you never knew existed. While there is hope for everyone, some times that hope is lost due to the surroundings that someone is brought up in. I have seen it. I have seen a kid go from good to dealing drugs and skipping school right where I live.

Living here has been hell on all of us and has been especially bad for Kevin and his injuries. We have taken 100 steps backwards with him. He has become more angry and bitter living here. Everything has become a trigger. Life has become more intense and it all crushes me. I can't make him better and I can't just fix things. All I can do is keep being the glue that holds us all together and pray we sell our house and move quickly. We have started looking at places to live and pray to be out of here very soon.

In the losses I mentioned earlier, there have also been gains. In all bad, good can be found. Such as the way my husband will forever be wounded from war. Without those wounds, who would we be now? Where would we be in life? In our lives, so much is focused on the negative, when in fact even in the darkest of moments, there is light. Right now, we may struggle to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we know it is there. Knowing it is what gives us hope for what lies ahead. Once we are away from here, we can take this all as a learning experience. I pray that my children take it all and carry it with them. I hope they take away how to treat others and how NOT to base things on skin color. We all bleed the same and who someone is runs much deeper than the color of their skin. I for one have some of the most amazing friends that I have never based judgement on because of what is on the outside. I hope that if/when they are ever in a situation that involves racism that they stand up for what and who is right, that they defend someone despite how they look. I hope they are able to take this experience and make a difference in someones life, preferably someone that is "different" or doesn't quite fit in.

Soon, living here will be a distant memory. We will forever be grateful for the opportunity we were given, but cannot wait to put it behind us. I have kept quiet on all of this for so long now, out of fear. Fear of losing friends, fear of hurting someone, fear of rejection because of my words. However, I refuse to live in that fear. If I lose friends, then they weren't a friend to begin with. If someone takes my words and misconstrues them, then that is on them. In no way should any of this be taken as anything other than what it is. It hurts me to see how this community behaves. Just like it can take one white trash person to make all whites look bad, it can do the same with blacks, hispanics, or any culture. I am smart enough to know that what we have seen around us it not something to base my thoughts on any race. There is bad in every race and sadly, we have had to endure over a year of the bad here. I am looking forward to moving into an area where my children can see true diversity and appreciate what others have to offer. We can all learn from each other.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas is Upon Us...

The holidays are no upon us, which means that plans are being made and soon will be executed, my house will be turned upside down in complete chaos because the kids are out of school, and tension will probably run high. Christmas time brings a love/hate relationship in this house. I find myself frantically trying to make everyone happy, all the while consumed with worry on how Kevin is going to handle this years adventures that are tied into who we will see and on what date.

When I speak to someone and they invite us to family gatherings, I can hear the disappointment that echoes through their voice when I tell then that we are going to stay home. At times, it becomes difficult to explain to family and friends that we cannot attend the gathers for holidays or birthday parties anymore because it is too much on Kevin. The noises, crowded areas, excitement, random popping of balloons, people we have never met, stepping out of the safe zone of our house... it can be too much. The looks, questions, desire that others have to bring up combat in conversations... it can be unbearable. So, instead of getting involved in it all, we lay low. We stay home and enjoy things with the five of us. We invite our parents over, one set at a time, or we make our way to North Georgia and visit with them...one set at a time. We keep it as a small gathering, ones that will not overwhelm anyone, especially not Kevin. We do what no works for our family, what we have all grown accustomed too and have fully accepted. We know this isn't ideal for everyone and that some will take it to heart, but it is not about them and us not wanting to be around them. It is the simple fact, we can no longer do as we once did. The aftermath of combat changes the veteran, and in return the family that is standing beside them. And you know, I am okay with it all. We may not be able to attend large functions, but we still get to see our families, just in a more intimate environment.

If you are reading this and you are family or friends with someone that was wounded in combat, remember that when they can't attend large events or they become easily overwhelmed, it's not you... They just can't do as they could before war. Take opportunities like this and talk to the spouse of the veteran, let them educate you on how things have changed. Listen when they speak, because if you don't, there is so much you will miss out on. As a wife that is so madly in love with her husband, who was wounded in war, the worst thing people on the outside can do is start assuming things when they honestly have no idea.

Holidays have proven to be some of the most difficult days for our men and women that have returned from war. Whether it's been a few months, a few years, or decades, what you may find excitement it, may be a trigger for them. Be patient and give them space. One of the worst things you can do is throw questions or stay on top of them, leaving them to feel very overwhelmed. It is not uncommon in our worlds for us to cancel plans at the last minute or to make it somewhere,  only to turn around and leave.

A smell, a sight, or a sound in the smallest sense can be that one thing that triggers them and sends them into a flashback. It can lead to a shutdowns that last minutes, hours, days or even weeks.

Christmastime in the years before deployments brought so many smiles and so much laughter, as we were surrounded by everyone. My how times have changed. I can honestly say, that for the most part, Kevin and I have truly been blessed with parents on both sides that have been understanding of circumstances changing. They don't pressure us or try to make us feel guilty because of how things have changed. They have seen little things here and there when it comes to breakdowns/episodes, but they have yet to see a full one or a true flashback. Thankfully, I am normally able to navigate him away from those when we are around family. If it becomes too much, then we explain that we have to leave.

So, as we embark on this Christmas and the festivities it brings, I am looking forward to seeing my kids eyes light up when they see what Santa left and as they open their gifts. I am excited to gather around the television and watch a few Christmas movies. We cannot wait to see family in small gatherings and celebrate Christmas with them. Let's remember the reason for the season. It's not about the gifts that are under the tree or the ones that Santa will leave...it's about the birth of Jesus, it's about those around us that we are so blessed to have in life. Spend time with those you love, let them know you love them. Share smiles and laughter as you build memories that will last you a lifetime.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Two Years Ago

I have sat and stared at the computer screen for awhile now, contemplating what to write...hell, how to even start. Veterans Day is upon us now and to us it's more than just another day. It holds so much more. It's a day that my husband and so many other deserve to be honored, though they deserve this everyday, Veterans Day is their day. Please remember this and show appreciation when you see a veteran and their family out.

11/11/11 was the last time he dressed in his ACU's and it was the last time we were apart of the AD life... There is so much we both miss about those times. After almost ten years of living a life full of changes, moves, time apart, it is still hard to become accustomed to this life we live now. Adapting to everyday "civilian" life has been such a challenge for each of us in ways we never expected and I cannot imagine how Kev feels everyday when he misses the army so much. What was found in that life, cannot be found in what we now live. To those that have lived it and do live it, you get it.

Veterans Day will always hold many meanings to our family... the day that all Veterans should be honored (as well as every day in my opinion), but also a day that our lives changed drastically. I am so blessed to have the husband I have. With all that we have been through, it is amazing to be where we are now...together. I am so proud of the man he is and despite his injuries, he amazes me every single day.


On this Veterans Day and everyday, I stand with pride when I see my husband, pride for a man that knows the true meaning of war and the aftermath. He is a man that has fought, bled, and lost for those around him - whether he knew them or not. He has served months and months away from his family, keeping us safe while protecting those around him. He is a man that has changed in so many ways, physically and mentally from combat, but he is a man that from time to time, I still catch that glimpse of the "old Kevin" and that alone makes every other moment okay. When I listen to his stories and the experiences he had overseas, I find myself loving him even more because of who he is. My husband has endured what the majority of our population cannot even begin to imagine and everyday we are blessed to have him here. So many close calls and so many things could have turned out differently, yet here we are... I'll take the bad just for the good.

Thank you babe for all you have sacrificed for us and so many others. There will never be enough words to show you just how much we appreciate those sacrifices that have been made and those that will continue to be made. I know this post-combat life is so far from easy, but it's so worth it. I know some days it doesn't feel that way, but I promise it is. We are so blessed to have you home and to be able to celebrate Veterans Day with you. Though there will not be a true celebration, it brings a smile to all of our hearts that you are here with us. I am so lucky to call you my husband and to have you beside me through this crazy life we share. I love you more than words...always!


2008

2009 before 2nd deployment

2010

deployment time

Getting ready to deploy

Getting ready to deploy

2009

2009

2007...love this one! Kev in Iraq

End of 1st deployment!!! Welcoming my man home

End of 1st deployment!!! Welcoming my man home

Welcome Home!!! Nic really looking at his daddy for the first time

End of 1st deployment

The best Christmas gift ever!!!


Iraq, 2007 - so hot!!!


Many tend to find slight confusion between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, so I looked it up to better clarify it for any questions. Veterans Day is not about honoring the dead, but honoring those that we are still so blessed to have with us that have been in the military.  Please make sure you know the difference and make sure you show your appreciation to those that have so bravely defended our freedoms. The sacrifices these men and women have made often go unnoticed because they are physically still here... for many of us, we see the scars that are carried among our veterans.

The difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day before all the confusion begins:
Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALLthose who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served - not only those who died - have sacrificed and done their duty.
Source: http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetday_faq.asp


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Dear "Old Army" Life

I received an email today from someone asking me to post the whole article that I wrote, "Dear 'Old Army' Life" because they were having issues viewing it from the link I provided.


Return from 1st Deployment
 Dear "Old Army" Life,

It has been seventeen months since we drove away from Fort Bliss, bidding our lives there a farewell as an active duty family. It has been fifteen months since my husband, Kevin's medical retirement date passed, and four years since the last time we said our "see you later's" and I kissed Kevin that one last time before he yet again, deployed to Iraq. My how the times have changed for us.

While I so desperately have wanted to hate you, I simply cannot. Had it not been for you and all of your experiences, Kevin and I would not be anything close to what we are today, nor would our marriage hold the love and strength it does. Sure, I despise the stress that came with you, the numerous times Kevin spent away from us, the many super close calls, multiple changes you brought into our lives, injuries Kevin now faces, and so much more. Yet, without you, this strength that now lives within me would be nonexistent and my heart would never swell with pride every time our National Anthem plays loudly through the speakers and brings me to tears. I wouldn't know what my heart is capable of handling and loving, just as I wouldn't know what it is like to miss someone so much every ounce of my being hurts or what it's like to fall in love with the same person over and over again upon every return home. I wouldn't know what it's like to fill with pride and love as my husband dressed in his BDU's and later in ACU's, stood in formation, or led his soldiers. I wouldn't know what it's like to wait for that one phone call to come in in over two months and that one call get me through two more months of limited communication while he was in a war zone. I wouldn't know the feeling of rockets hitting his FOB while we are talking on the phone and listen to him as he drops the phone after telling me he loves me; only to breakdown hours later as his voice came through the speaker of that same phone telling me he was okay, they had just lived through another attack.

It has taken me many hardships, time, struggles, doubts, and you finally bringing my husband home to me "bent, but not totally broken" for me to accept the permanent changes you brought into our lives without being so full of anger and hatred towards you.

You took the man I married before you came into our lives away so many times, the last couple of times, always returning him a stranger to me and our kids. Yet, we never allowed you to beat us with these changes. Instead, we learned to fight for our family and fall in love all over again, despite your crazy obstacles that should have left us walking away from everything that was hanging by a thread.

You had him by your side for many holidays and every single one of my birthdays. You took Kevin away from being with our children as they grew and changed for months on end, just as you took time and days away from our children not having their dad by their sides. Through the tears and frustrations, you left us with an unexplainable appreciation for our lives and an unconditional love we all now share. You tested our strength, love, and courage on many occasions. Hell, you even attempted to tear our family apart with the many unexpected changes you threw our way, yet at the same time, you also taught us how to fight and survive.

Before we began the journey in the army life, I never imagined or thought of what you would leave us with after you made your entrance into our lives, then so quickly faded after years, field probs, deployments, injuries, years, and Kevin's return home. I never once thought that today the emotional, mental, and physical tolls would play such a significant part of our everyday life as it does. Nor, did I think that my career-minded husband would be medically retired due to injuries sustained during his deployments, leaving me as his everyday caregiver. You never told us he could be injured, whether it be visible or invisible wounds, you just warned us he could come home either with no permanent issues, missing limbs, or fearfully not at all. Yet, through all of this, I am learning acceptance in our "new" lives. I have found strength in unimaginable ways and learned to smile at the simple fact Kevin is home and safe with me - even if the severe injuries he has changed our entire lives around. They will always dictate most of what we do, and now, I am okay with that. We are blessed to have him home.

"Sweet" Army Life, you taught me how to grow and change, while letting me know it is in fact okay to do these things without having to explain my growths to those on the outside. In no way do I or will I ever miss the times that you took my husband away or long for those to return, but I do miss the comradery of those in the active duty life. I miss the structure you so brutally taught us and have instilled in our everyday lives. I do appreciate the lessons we have learned, whether it be in easy or hard ways. I am thankful for you allowing us to take these next steps in our lives with you being a part of who we are and will always be.

You taught me about raising kids independently while you took my husband to the field and to war. You taught me how to live through fear and worry of the unknown, while always reminding myself that "No news is good news". You left me stepping away from all that I knew, my family, friends, and comfort zones, but you led me to a place I will always cherish with friendships that will always hold a special place in my heart. You showed me that being strong-minded isn't such a terrible thing and that being independent is an amazing quality to hold in this life.

You've taught me patience in every step, just as how you have taught me "Hurry up and Wait" in everyday life. Everyone knows we all became professionals in this sense. During his first deployment, you taught us to never take a single moment for granted and to cherish every day that we live, good or bad. You've given me strength and confidence to stand up for what I believe in, to never give up, and to fight for Kevin with his injuries, after all no one else can advocate for him as I can. You left us with the cold reality of tomorrow not being promised so to enjoy each breath we take and to always smile.

I am stronger today because of you, just as my marriage and family are and will always be. You still bring me to tears and breakdowns, but that will always be alright because tomorrow is a new day, full of sunshine. Cloudy days will always come and go in life, especially when living through what we have.

"Old Army" life, you will always win a battle from time to time, but as you can see my old friend, we will always win this war. Thank you for the many lessons and continuing growth. We are living proof of survivors in this life.

Sincerely "A Bent but Never Broken" Veteran's Wife,
Brittney

Sunday, June 2, 2013

All Over the Place

I know it's been quite awhile since I last updated here... I am trying to find my way back to blogging as I should be blogging, but in a since have been struggling to find words for things going on in our lives. Life has been a mixture of things...from good to the same to still bad days. The good has primarily been with my Thirty-One business. I have finally started to find my place with my business and ways to make it better, which is fabulous! I love what I do and the ladies that I am now surrounded by. It's absolutely amazing the way certain people can bring clarity to situations and life in general. The relationships that have been formed over the past 15 months have left me feeling incredibly blessed and looking forward to things in life with a positive outlook. Change can be a very good thing at times...

The staying the same and bad days are what they have always been. Since moving to Macon, life has been more of a struggle for my family as a whole. I have managed to keep quiet on this for the most part and not make a big deal out of any of it. We have been so incredibly blessed with our home and this whole experience, but the truth is, it has been hell on my family. My family and I are so use to diversity and have never had an issue with racism or such hatefulness as we have first handily witnessed here. Both of my daughters have seen more hatred than any child should see at the school they attended. Caitlin struggled with building friendships throughout 4th grade, yet was able to bond with one little girl. Breanna came home ready to fight a child she was friends with over petty things. Her and this girl started have serious issues by the end of school year causing them to get closer and closer to fighting. I finally caved and spoke to her teacher, who happened to handle the situation amazingly! Luckily, no fight broke out between the two and this upcoming year Breanna will be home-schooled, and will continue being home-schooled until we are able to relocate. Sadly, both of our girls learned a lot about racism and it did lead to many struggles for both of them, especially Caitlin. However, it also taught them how not to treat others. Race, income levels, clothes, and the way someone looks does not determine who they really are and both of our girls now see this even more. They know to place judgement on someone comes after they give that person a chance. We don't know what someone is going through in life just by seeing them and it is unfair to place judgement without knowing them. And before anyone starts with any comments, yes there was racism directed towards my daughters. Anyone that knows me knows that I would never use racism issues lightly...I hate even uttering those words and it broke my heart to know my children were subjected to it and that some parents aren't being parents these days. My daughters were made fun of and talked about because they are white... they are white in a predominately black school..which to us in the beginning was no big deal. They were part of the few white kids at an all Hispanic school in El Paso for five years. We never had issues there. Everyone was treated fairly. Thankfully, Breanna was able to make friends with many people in her class because she didn't allow anyone to bring her down. She mainly hung out with a small group of boys over anyone else. I will say, the Principal and staff tried everything they could to straighten these girls out. The ones that caused issues the most with Caitlin have had a bed rep since first grade with their hatred and bullying.

Kevin has also been struggling in major ways since moving here. We now live in a neighborhood with not much room between houses and small yards. That alone has been very difficult for him. We are the only white family that I know of in this neighborhood, but thankfully have awesome neighbors. We do stand out and have had some negativity directed towards us by some off our street. It amazes me that people still want to cause drama or act hateful towards people of a different race. I find it very upsetting. I have many friends of so many races and would be heartbroken without them in my life. Just as I would be heartbroken had Kevin not had all the guys he had in the military of all races. They got each other through it all when deployed and when back home.

Without going into the full details of all that has taken place, I will just say it is killing me that everything has played out as it has. It is killing me that Kevin struggles so much with something that should be an amazing thing. It kills me to see my kids with so many battles and to see the negative impact moving here has had on them. It is all just stressing me out and leaving me to question everything on our move. I hate feeling like this. I hate what it has done to our family, but am so thankful at the same time because this is one hell of an opportunity we have been blessed with. It has just really taken a toll on us as a family, as well as Kev's PTSD. His PTSD has gotten worse, as has his road rage at times. He is so temperamental in the house and every damn time we leave the house. His short term memory is slowly getting worse and I struggle to not break down. Seeing him becoming tense over not being able to remember things or recall conversations is heartbreaking. Watching him with his back always hurting and the fact that he is having to use his cain more and more is also a bit frustrating to see. Okay, maybe frustrating is not the correct word... it's just so damn hard. All of it. There is no where else I would rather be, than right here with him and our kids. I just feel helpless because I can't make things better. I can't make his PTSD or TBI's subside. I can't make his back feel better and walking become easier. All I can do is be here and help him...but at times that doesn't even feel like enough.

I know this post is all over the place tonight, but so are my thoughts. I don't even know if it will make sense because I feel as though I am just jumping around, but I had to get this out somewhere. Kev still has his good days, which I still hold close to me. Those good days make every bad day or bad moment bearable. They remind me more and more why I do what I do. His outbursts have become more frequent, but my ability to help calm him has gotten better. I have learned different ways to calm him and the kids...then later have my own personal breakdown away from them all.

Tonight wasn't even a bad night, but for some reason things are really weighing in on me right now. I just wish I had the answers or ability to make things better for him. I am hoping for big and positive changes in the near future and praying these changes will help Kevin in tremendous ways. For now, I will keep doing what I do because I know in some form or another, it works. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Dear "Old Army" Life

I sat down the other night after taking time to pull away from conversations and everyday life and took the time to think about what we have been through, where we have been and where we are now. Where we are now is so incredibly different than where we were in life just a couple years ago. After all this time, I have found a way to be content with the past and our experiences/obstacles because each significant and insignificant moment in our lives have made each of us who we are today. They have molded us into the lives we live and left us with the will to survive and fight harder for things we desire in life. Things will never be the same, not as they once were. But, that is okay because things always happen for a reason. With all that I have been through from the army life, Kev's time active duty and now as a wounded veteran, kids, and my own serious health issues/surgeries, this is our life and I am so proud of where we are and who we are. 

When I sat down and wrote, it became a letter to our old Army life. It all just poured out of me in an unexpected way. I never thought I would just sit down and become honest with myself and then share it with others. I did this because often we lose ourselves in the negative side of this life and forget that there is so much positive to it - even with the breakdowns and numerous shedding of tears. I have decided that I am going to put a sincere smile on my face and enable myself to be happy despite the hard times, despite the breakdowns, despite the injuries and despite what we are going through - and you can too! Our lives as spouses of wounded veterans is far from easy, but the more any of us dwell on the past and focus on the negative aspects, the worse off each of us will be. Why bring unneeded misery to our lives, we have enough of that with daily living when moments are rough. We can all make a difference, whether it's revolving around our families or taking our own experiences and using them to help others. I have taken this stand and want to use our experiences to help others, to let them know they are never alone. We have all been there.

I submitted the below article to Yahoo Contributor and they published it a couple days ago, I won't share the whole thing on here, however you can always click HERE to view it on Yahoo's website.

.......While I so desperately have wanted to hate you, I simply cannot. Had it not been for you and all of your experiences, Kevin and I would not be anything close to what we are today, nor would our marriage hold the love and strength it does. Sure, I despise the stress that came with you, the numerous times Kevin spent away from us, the many super close calls, multiple changes you brought into our lives, injuries Kevin now faces, and so much more. Yet, without you, this strength that now lives within me would be nonexistent and my heart would never swell with pride every time our National Anthem plays loudly through the speakers and brings me to tears. I wouldn't know what my heart is capable of handling and loving, just as I wouldn't know what it is like to miss someone so much every ounce of my being hurts or what it's like to fall in love with the same person over and over again upon every return home. I wouldn't know what it's like to fill with pride and love as my husband dressed in his BDU's and later in ACU's, stood in formation, or led his soldiers. I wouldn't know what it's like to wait for that one phone call to come in in over two months and that one call get me through two more months of limited communication while he was in a war zone. I wouldn't know the feeling of rockets hitting his FOB while we are talking on the phone and listen to him as he drops the phone after telling me he loves me; only to breakdown hours later as his voice came through the speaker of that same phone telling me he was okay, they had just lived through another attack........


.......You've taught me patience in every step, just as how you have taught me "Hurry up and Wait" in everyday life. Everyone knows we all became professionals in this sense. During his first deployment, you taught us to never take a single moment for granted and to cherish every day that we live, good or bad. You've given me strength and confidence to stand up for what I believe in, to never give up, and to fight for Kevin with his injuries, after all no one else can advocate for him as I can. You left us with the cold reality of tomorrow not being promised so to enjoy each breath we take and to always smile.......

To read this article in full, please visit http://voices.yahoo.com/article/9861689/dear-old-army-life-12086719.html?cat=9. Please feel free to share this blog post and the article. 

To contact me, email brittney.biddle@yahoo.com

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Placing Judgement

Disclaimer: Please note that the post I wrote last year does not hold to how I feel today. I am not in a state of depression as I was and am only sharing this to help others not feel alone. This road we are on as wives of wounded veterans can be quite difficult and when other things are thrown into the mix, it is easy to lose sight of everyday life.

Tonight is one of those nights I find myself a bit overwhelmed with many emotions and so much that is weighing on my mind. When I look back at my life, never has there been a time I can recall of pure happiness with no struggles. There have always been hurdles I find myself leaping over, of course at times falling on my face. I've learned that no matter how hard I fall, I have to pick myself up and keep moving forward.

Last year around this time, everything in life hit me hard. My health issues and the constant fight for everyday life, the pain I feel daily and the inability to live as most others my age, Kevin's injuries and the way the war never ended for him (the internal war is much worse than the war he was in overseas), me becoming his caregiver, surgery after surgery that I have to endure as well as the ones Kevin has been through. I just didn't want to live this life or fight through anything anymore. I was so tired of the medical issues and felt so helpless with all that had happened to my husband. It seems that death is always lingering around and that people I love are taken too soon. Then again, death has been something I have been around since I was a young child and it is also a "common" thing when living as a military/veteran family. Last year I hit the point of feeling more of a burden and absolute failure than ever before. I reached a point that I watched my children yearning for me to play with them, but the pain throughout my abdomen and around my kidneys was so intense that I struggled to do much of anything. I struggled with seeing their disappointment in me and found myself feeling that I could never be the mother they needed with my medical issues. I had reached a state of depression I never knew could truly exist. I now have such a clear and better understanding for those that take their own lives. When you reach the point of being suicidal, there is no clear way of thinking. It is an overall distraught and dark place to be. That's where I was...To this day, I am not even sure what it was that pulled me out of that state, other than day to day life with Kevin and our children.

I did write a blog post and share it anonymously last June. I knew if I shared it on here or really with anyone that I would have lived in true hell with the comments and opinions of so many. There would have been more negativity than support and when I felt the way I did - support was what I needed and nothing else. Yet, I fought through it all pretty much on my own, again not wanting to "burden" anyone else with my emotions and the roller coaster I was on.

In the blog post, I wrote,
"Just a few weeks ago, I found myself beginning to hit bottom. I was at a loss on so many things in life and where my life was headed. I was battling my own demons, while watching my husband struggle with his from combat.

As I stood in my living room holding a bottle of medication in my hand, there was a moment that an out of place thought ran through my head of "take one...or just take them all". Never, has anything like that even crossed my mind. I honestly stood there debating whether or not to take them all because I felt like I was hitting bottom.


I felt like I was just shattering into a million tiny pieces with no one to help pick me back up. I was crumbing with nowhere to fall and with no one to fall into. I have a large amount of friends that surround me and say they are here, but I had I admitted these thoughts to any of them they would have told me to go to the ER, seek emergency help or they would tell me how sorry they are that things are as they are. Neither of what I was looking for. I wanted an outlet. I wanted to scream and yell. I wanted a friend to just hear me out, to hear my thoughts and feelings as I was at a point that I had never reached.


I tried not too long ago to talk to someone and was told that since I wasn't suicidal or homicidal, I could wait to talk to someone in the mental health field because others had a priority. Well, damn, if that's the way people that feel such as I have lately, I understand how one can reach the point of suicidal thoughts.


No, I am not going to harm myself. I would never take my life, I do have a lot to be thankful for. I am just frustrated and honestly feel like I am an emotional mess on a never ending roller coaster. There is that small part of me that has wondered if my family and friends would be better off without me. My husband looked at me a month ago and said "You always say how unstable and explosive I am...Look at you". I felt like it would have been better had he just hit me. I think I could have handled that much better.


I sent my husband to war twice. I helped him pack his bags. I watched as the military took him to combat, to fight against monsters. I stood beside him through it all and as he came home a different man from the first deployment, just to deploy again a year and a half later after receiving no help and fighting himself from the hell that he had lived in.


His first deployment may not have left me without my husband physically, but it left me without my husband mentally. He returned home someone that physically and mentally was struggling, on edge, apprehensive, and battling his own fierce demons.


I have struggled with the severity of my husbands injuries and the fact that as the days pass, I realize he is not getting better and in many ways, becoming worse. I have battled my own demons that many do not know about nor have they taken the time to learn. Yet, I tend to put a smile on my face and act as though all is okay. I stand strong, when there are times I feel so weak. There are days I want to fall apart, that I want support...yet I have no idea how to even bring these things up to those that call themselves a friend.


It's those that appear to be the strongest, that often need support the most...."


I didn't even pour all of my thoughts into this post, I just needed to get so much off my chest when I wrote and shared it. During my struggles and battles with the place I was in, friendships were torn apart and quite a few people referred to me as a "bitch". Now, as I think about it all, I find myself consumed with the reality of how quick friends and even family was to judge me without even asking what was going on or if I was okay. I wasn't purposely trying to anger anyone, ruin relationships, or be labeled as a total bitch. I was trying my hardest to get through every day without completely losing it...and I was doing it alone. Yet, here I am trying to justify my reasons and I shouldn't because ones that I thought were my true friends should have been there when they noticed changes in me, just as I would have for them. My heart still aches over everything.

Before I reached the point I did a year ago, I was one that instantly said suicide was the most selfish thing a person could do. I was that person that would judge instantly when someone had committed suicide, attempted it, or even thought about it. Now, I understand that having the thoughts honestly does not make someone less of a person, but that the person having the thoughts or even acting out on them is in such a deep and dark depression, they can't see the light. This is when more than ever, friends and family should step up. They should be there. When you notice a friend not acting right, posting negative things on FB, or simply pulling away, get your ass in gear and be a friend! Don't remove them from your fb friends because they are being so negative, don't ignore them because they aren't happy as they use to be...pick up the phone and call them. Ask them what's going on and then listen to them. When you are talking to them, ask yourself "Are you listening or are you waiting to talk?" (Thank you Steve Shenbaum for these words! Every conversation this now sticks with me). Take time to let that kick in and take it into every conversation you have with people. I really cannot comprehend how people can be so quick to place judgement or turn their back on others. Is it really that hard to be a friend? Being a friend is being judgement free.

For a couple weeks, this has been heavy on my mind and heart and I have debated even sharing it on here in fear, did I really want people to know how depressed I was last year? Did I really want more people to judge me and feel the need to either walk away or become overly opinionated in something that was not for them to judge? After a lot of thinking and debating, you can see I decided to share it. Think what you want and judge me as you will. I am honestly okay with it. My life isn't perfect, never has been - but neither has yours. There is so much that I keep bottled inside and even more that the majority will never know. I have been through more in the almost thirty years I have been living than I will ever share, because frankly, it is none of anyone's business. I have had to fight to live, especially the past two and a half years. I have been on my deathbed more than once and survived it, just as I will keep surviving the times that knock me on my ass in the future.

I have learned that it is okay and it is acceptable to have difficult and dark days as long as I can pick myself back up and push forward the next day. The thoughts of suicide don't cross my mind as they did. Just as many others, I do question life from time to time, nothing to be concerned about though. I have learned I have more strength than I ever imagined and will keep fighting for my life as well as my husbands and children. I have learned to let go of so many things and people lately. The ones that bring unneeded drama to my life have been let go. The ones that continuously hurt me have also been let go. I don't have the time nor energy for it anymore.

At the end of the day, despite medical issues and injuries, Kevin and our kids are my life. With or without anyone else, I can keep moving forward with those four by my side. I am a mother, wife, caregiver, friend, and so much more to those I love. To those that have stood beside me without judging this past year (and the years before), I thank you. To the few that pushed their way into my life when I hit bottom as hard as I did, thank you for being here and never judging. To those that recently found out about my thoughts last year and judged me, or are reading this now and placing judgement, take a long look in the mirror. For you to judge is an asinine thing to do. If you are negatively judging me right now, I can only hope you never find yourself in the state of depression I was in or that so many others fall into.

Sometime soon, I will write another post in regards to combat veterans and their caregivers dealing with suicide and suicidal thoughts. So much goes on behind closed doors that most would never imagine...
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