30 April 2012

The Giving Book Club's Current Book...

I haven't posted any of my books from The Giving Book Club in quite a while.  Since I haven't done so and if you are wondering what these few posts have been about (I had only started them before back surgery) then you may want to read the short post that explains this club and it's first book at Giving Is Supposed To Come From Here... This is the perfect 'pick me up' for a Monday because it's a scientific fact that laughter makes you feel better... Warning: Just be careful not to read it at work... or while drinking your morning orange juice.  The juice really stings the inside of your nose.  :)

Just in case you can't read the small print it says: Follow Your Dreams (Except for that one where you go to work naked and dance the Polka) by Cheryl Caldwell.

QOTD: Discover your true self, whoever that may be. "Hello, My Name Is High Maintenance." ~ Cheryl Caldwell

27 April 2012

The Military PTSD Family...

Although military related PTSD is a huge part of my family's life, I rarely blog about it here.  I'm not absolutely silent about it but this is my place for making lemonade and on the average, most lemons are commonplace lemons.  PTSD is NOT an average or easily handled lemon.  PTSD is a very hard subject for me to face on a daily basis so it is hard for me to write of it.  I write posts in a journal fashion to find a positive point, frame of reference or personal compass direction to my personal life.  I have accepted that my life will never be 'normal', but I have learned be thankful for the little things in life.  Is my life the laugh riot it sometimes seems to be here on my blog? Of course not.

Writing about this part of our lives is extremely painful.  It is a lot to deal with and I have to remind myself often to NOT look at the big picture but to live life moment by moment. However, after reading a post over on SpouseBUZZ, a blog for military spouses and families, I decided that there IS a lot of positive things that have come out of my family's experiences and that it might give hope for some veteran or veteran's family member who are on a part of this road my family has already traveled.  For that reason, I've decided to share my current lemonade recipe.  Current recipe?  Well, yes.  Life is all about change and so the recipe is always adjusting to it.  And no.  I did NOT learn that overnight.  I did not live it for even longer.

I do NOT have any easy answers. Nothing worthwhile in life comes easy, at least I've found that's been very true for me.  This recipe is not some carefully laid out plan to having a happier life for someone who has PTSD (or for their families). Unfortunately (or fortunately depending upon how you look at it) there are some paths you must travel alone to learn from how and where they lead you.
Each and every member of a military member's family serves with the military member and that is an extremely hard concept for 99+ percent of the American population to wrap their minds around. Why? Because LESS than ONE percent are serving in the military today.  Military members can't do what they do without their families. To know the entire family is taking care of the home front whether or not the service member is deployed or not is critical as they work and relate as a unit. A family unit. Those same family members pay a price that is rarely acknowledged. It's hard enough to get help for a veteran with PTSD, getting help for the families, spouses and children is even harder.  In my opinion, an entire military family should be given the opportunity of both individual and family counseling WITHOUT having to get to the point of critical mass before something can be done!
Any wound, visible or not has an enormous effect on the entire family.  A diagnosis of PTSD brings with it the stigmatized 'Flipped Out' behavior attached to it. I am a veteran with PTSD and our entire family has experienced of the inequality of treatment by the general population at large (and within the VA). Once the diagnosis is revealed, for any reason, to a person or entity we often receive the "Oh my God, is this person or a member of their family going to go postal? We don't want to have to deal with the possibility or liability" and you are immediately discouraged, turned away, or flat out denied any kind of relationship to the individual or entity. Is that fair? No. Does it happen? With all too much frequency.

So this recipe begins with a lot of lemons... For about six years I rarely left my house, I did not even have a driver's license because I felt I couldn't LEAVE my house.  Has it gotten better?  Yes.  Why? I finally got a LOT of the help I needed from the right people within, and outside of, the Veteran's Administration.  How much better has it gotten? I can not define what PTSD is like for others, but for me, it had been tearing me and my family apart and we all still have bad days... and nights.  But I HAVE gotten out of my house.  I DO have a valid driver's license now.  Our family has learned and continues to learn how to survive and find a little peace and happiness.

After the first step of getting me some intensive help (for many years) I still felt like a hamster that went on vacation.  The wheel was still spinning, but I wasn't really there.  I was overwhelmed, which I've discovered is a trigger for me.  What is a trigger?  It's something specific that sets off a chain reaction of feelings and actions.  Being overwhelmed for me tends to give me panic attacks that only acerbate the rest of the alphabet soup of medical names for side effects from PTSD.  We have five daughters and I could see the damage from my conditions that left them feeling depressed.  Their feelings of worthlessness, helplessness to control anything in their lives.  I was supposed to be giving them a solid foundation to build belief in themselves and their abilities.  I knew I was failing them, my husband and myself on all fronts.

I couldn't help any of them.  I didn't even know where to start.  My personal therapist recommended going to family therapy.  The reaction of the kids pegged the 'not until Hell freezes over' meter.  I think our youngest was about ten at the time and our eldest was about 17.  After talking it over at length with my husband, I started dragging (and I DO mean mentally DRAGGING!) the kids and we would meet their father at the therapist's office after he got out of work.  Six times.  Once a week.  For six VERY long weeks.  I grew to LOATHE that day of the week.  

It was absolutely horrendous. They did NOT want to go. They did NOT see how it was helping, after all, just getting in the car was just one argument and fight after another. So on that sixth session, I announced that I was through dragging anyone, anywhere.  I was done.  They were right.  The stress of getting everyone even into the car was so negative that a one hour appointment could not overcome it.  

Our wonderful therapist explained to our family that this takes time to see any results.  She was just getting a feel for the family dynamics and we were all learning HOW to hold a conversation in which we ALL had a chance to be heard.  She named off some specific things the kids were peeved with each other and my husband and I.  She then asked each of them individually if they wanted to have a place where they had the right to air ANY grievance without the fear of reprisal.  That they would actually have a vote in finding a solution the entire family could live with.  My husband and I had to agree that we would agree to anything that had a fair majority vote. 

Well, I guess that got their interest enough that everyone was willing to try to improve our home life by giving family therapy at least thirteen sessions.  On the thirteenth, we would vote to see who still wanted to come and who didn't.  Nobody would have to come if they didn't want to.  The kids all decided that they were each willing to give it a little more time. My husband and I agreed to allow their decision to stand without any negative impact.  For the next seven weeks, we all worked on a specific problem for each week and then reported back how we each felt the solution chosen was working.  As an example, one of the earliest problems tackled was the complaint of being responsible for their own breakfast and evening dishes.   After a week of this, none of us were satisfied with the results.  Dishes were still magically appearing used and not taken care of.  So one of the kids suggested we all get a set of different colored dishes and you could only use the ones that were yours.  After this vote, we went and picked out different dishes at Pier One.  This seemed to work a lot better for quite a while... (we have all had to agree that we ALL have gotten the lazy gene so sometimes we really have to still work on this)

Week thirteen came and all agreed to keep coming because each of us were able to express what was bothering us the most without (mostly) any interruption.   The therapist basically plays referee and ensures we abide by certain rules of engagement.  She will sometimes start with a question, ask how our week went, did anyone have anything they really wanted to get off their chest.  We started going to dinner after the appointment because we got out so late. That was four years ago and we are still going even though three of our elder daughters have started college and jobs now. If for some reason one or more can't make it, the rest still go.  In a family of 7, we've had the occasional two or three member meetings.  We've all found there are benefits to this.  So we now all look forward to this time. It's our family time and after the 'family meeting' we go out for what has come to be a very wonderful and happy time.  Dinner or an ice cream cone and then home with a much lighter feeling.

This has by no means solved all our family problems, but it HAS taught us a lot about each person and how to communicate in a way that does not instantly push a particular family member's buttons.  My personal therapy has improved.  I think because there is a little less stress in all of our lives.  We all feel that there ARE a few things that we actually got RIGHT.  There is nothing like a little success every now and then to keep you hopeful.  I totally believe that life is NOT about the destination.  NO ONE is guaranteed another day, hour or minute.  It's what you do with the time that you have been given that will make all the difference to your life, and eventually, the biggest difference for all those important people in your life that you will someday have to leave behind. 

26 April 2012

Booking A Texting Vacation...

I dreamed about this last night. Although this happened LAST May...

A slightly harassed Lemon Stand attempting to make recent vacation plans being made via text (welcome to the 21st century) with Husband:

LS, "The kids want to know if we can go to Cape Cod for a week?"

Husband, "??"

LS, "You said something about the possibility of a military reservation? Oh, and I also made arrangements with Beth at the Oil company for the remaining heating bill."

Husband, "It's called Cliff and was she cool?"

LS, "I don't know if she had her air conditioner on or possibly took my call whilst standing in a meat locker, but she WAS very nice about it."

Husband, "She's like that."

LS, "What is Cliff and can I jump off it right now?"

Husband, "Only if I can push."

LS, "By the time you push, I'll already have jumped... so remember what happens to the lemmings..."

Husband, "If you jump, that would remove most of my reasons for following."

LS:  :(

LS, "Well then... start imagining a future without me being an anchor around your neck... 

LS, "We all need to have dreams..."

Husband, "Keep dreaming.  We don't have any high buildings in our piece of 'the middle of nowhere.'"

LS, "Hence the girls request for a Cape Cod vacation."

Husband, "Ah, no."

LS, "No vacation?"

Husband, "No lemming impersonations."

QOTD: "We hit the sunny beaches where we occupy ourselves keeping the sun off our skin, the saltwater off our bodies, and the sand out of our belongings."  ~ Erma Bombeck

25 April 2012

The Most Important Things in Life... Aren't Things...

Teaching a child to count isn't as important as teaching a child what counts. 

Google seriously let me down on the attribution of this one, but it made up for it by also finding: "There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: One is roots, the other is wings." ~ Hodding Carter

24 April 2012

The Secret Of A Happy Life...

If you want to be successful in life, then, without any expectation of anything in return, help others to succeed...

Definitely not a lemon in sight... just a learned lesson.

23 April 2012

Insomnia, Inigo and the Room of Requirement...

Sleep deprivation... It's a killer!  I feel like I should be called Inigo Montoya.
[Inigo Montoya] "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya, prepare to die!" or
[Vizzini] "HE DIDN'T FALL [asleep]? INCONCEIVABLE."
[Inigo Montoya] "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." [I agree!]

Picture yourself in my shoes (or slippers as the case may be), suffering from insomnia and a migraine headache that feels like the pressure and pain of being at the very bottom of the abysmal depths of the Mariana's Trench... Go.on.picture.it!  (No, no, no. No need to worry... why, I have never lost my zen...unless provoked, so all's good. Right?)

Insomnia, you suck.  Right now I feel 'mostly dead'... I guess I could go watch The Princess Bride again.  It's either that, or I may not have any patience left (much less zen) when I have to get up and actually try to interact with humanity on the morrow.  I must be able to control myself because I know that it's not polite nor politically correct to give anyone a complete verbal mental picture of how they should stuff their head somewhere that has been declared by the medical community as being anatomically, not in any way, possible and then informing the recipient that their new method of communication will have to be via their small (or would that be large?) intestines.

It stands to reason that to insure the recipient of my wisdom would never forget the lesson of ticking off my less than benevolent self. (only caused by sleep deprivation, you understand... or more likely, since this really doesn't seem to make me sound like a very likable human being... I have finally fallen asleep and this is only a dream... no?  OK, then. I guess I'm just a very unlikable person... at least without a benchmark minimum of at least a solid 6 hours of sleep) The lesson would probably be along the line of having the privilege (and joy) of tossing said individual into the basement (without turning on the light to gently guide their trip down the steep stairs), locking the door and then go to find a very large slice of pumpkin cheesecake and a mellow glass of wine. The basement dweller(s) would then either find the bulkhead door in the dark... or someday I could have them declared to be lost.  Now THAT right there would be the perfect 'Room of Requirement' a la Harry Potter!

QOTD: I also wish insomnia could be cured with a simple Harry Potter wizard's curse of "Stupify" which supposedly puts the object of the curse, immediately to sleep. Under the current conditions... I also wonder why it would be considered a 'curse'?

22 April 2012

Test Warning...

WARNING: This is a test. This is only a test. Had this been a REAL emergency, you would have been directed to go to the nearest sound proofed room for your own safety (and possibly sanity)...

***REBEL, past caring who's eardrums are ruptured, YELL***

I guess this wasn't a test after all... oops, my bad.  My only advice now would be to get to a sound proofed room as quickly as possible or go get really exceptional earplugs.  These precautions may save you from rebel yells, profanities and possibly my colorful use of verbiage in the days to follow.

I'd like to be able to apologize for this interruption of (truly, I would) your work Face Book, work Twitter, work Tumbler, work Pinterest, work blogging, work gaming work internet surfing, work texting  and work sleeping (except if you truly DID need that 'Beauty Rest' or possibly a 'Pretty Nap' to function keep others from wanting to kill you), but I cannot lie.  I simply can't be sorry for that Rebel Yell...  in fact... it felt so good, I might even try it again (after my own ears stop ringing, that is) and again and again and a lather, rinse, repeat.

Thank you. I know 'I' feel so much better now. 

Lemon Stand 

PS: Unanswered questions that keep me from being able to sleep at night:

I wonder if OSHA will soon be knocking at our door... for noise pollution... along with the police for possibly disturbing the peace?

What's the punishment is for exceeding OSHA's standards for safe decibel levels for any humans, pets, plants and zombies that might be within hearing distance? 

I wonder if zombies have to pay taxes... because they are not quite dead, nor are they quite alive? 

I wonder if I could patent the sound as a vociferous form of torture?

Is there really only three things you can never avoid in a lifetime... death, taxes and zombies?

I will be sure to let you know when you may return to your regularly scheduled activities... until then, my recommendation would be to hide.  :)

QOTD"There are three times in a man's life when he has the right to yell at the moon—when he marries; when his children come; and when he finishes a job he had to be crazy to start."  ~ Borden Chase [Frank Fowler] (1900–1971), U.S. screenwriter

20 April 2012

Note To Self...

The following post is a repost... only I must remember that when watching movies with certain members of our family, it is like having Siskel and Ebert in your living room... Oh, and we had KFC again tonight for dinner...

The Only Reason We Buy Video Games...

My husband hunted and gathered for our dinner tonight and brought home KFC.  For dinner and entertainment, we sat with our youngest daughter Erin and commented on daughter Danielle's performance of the video game, Nathan Drake's Uncharted.  A truly wonderful family moment between the chicken leg through the mash potatoes and gravy.  Normally I'd say it was a Kodak moment but the narration reigned supreme.

Erin, "You're supposed to shoot him."
Danielle, "Shut up."
Erin, "You're supposed to kill him with the grenade."
Danielle, "Shut up."
Me, "Huh, what's this game called?"
Danielle, whilst shooting her way through a dungeon, "Nathan Drake's Uncharted.  He's supposed to be a descendant of Sir Francis Drake. Nathan Fillion wants to play him in a movie."
Me, "Really? Does HE know how to shoot that weapon with any accuracy?"
Danielle, "Shut up."
Me, "The shooting doesn't look very realistic."
Erin, "Neither does the blood spatter."
Me, "Neither does the bullet count from that particular weapon, but at least he has his stance right."
Danielle, "Do you want to see what real blood spatter look like?"
Husband, "We should take her to Paris... Island."
Me, "Hey, Danielle.  Do you want to be a marine?"
Danielle, "No,"
Husband, "That's probably best.  You're shooting's not very accurate."
Danielle, "Shut up." 
Husband, "Well at least Justin Timberlake has gone up in my estimation."
Me, "You saw that, too? His Marine Corps Ball post?"
Husband, "Yeah.  Hey Danielle.  The marine corps could show you just how to use that grenade launcher.  You sure you don't want to reconsider your options?"
Danielle, "NO."
Erin, "You're supposed to shoot him.  He's not supposed to shoot you."
Danielle, "You're going to get shown violence up close and personal."
Me, "He's fading out.  Is he feinting? He's feinting.  Is he SUPPOSED to do that?"
Danielle, "Just GIVE me a minute!"
Erin, "You're dead."
Danielle, "So are you if you don't shut up!"
Me, "Well.  This has been entertaining, but it's time to go find something more heart palpitating. Like the Loo."
Plus the added bonus to have blog fodder.  All in all.  Another successful family dinner at casa de Lemon.  Still, I must put a caveat, because the girls give me crap about not having a photographic verbal memory.  Wording is never EXACTLY correct. It's true.  But do you REALLY want me to start recording dinner time conversation? No?  Then life is good!  :)

08 April 2012

My Quota Of Lessons For One Day...

You know how you should learn at least ONE new thing a day? Yesterday, I got lucky and learned:

Lesson #1 - A postcard... or more specifically THIS postcard (our entire family 'heart' Andy Riley's Bunnie Suicide cartoons) picked out by Erin because she thought it would be perfect considering her father's recent travel adventures.  The lesson?  It now costs THIRTY TWO CENTS to send a postcard? (Color me clueless, but I guess it's been a while since I visited one of those austere institutions)

Lesson #2 - When you only have 10 cent stamps and then run into the post office to get 2 cent stamps so you can apply the proper amount of postage required... take my word on this... you'll be given some very strange and possibly alarmed looks from your USPS staff and fellow patrons as you mutter obscenities under your breath while you attempt to put FOUR stamps across the top of the postcard... and run out of space. (The good news is that it only takes ONE irate glance to keep ANYONE from laughing at your obvious predicament)

Lesson #3 - Deciding to avoid the same problem again... I bought a book of stamps without really looking at them.  I got home and then realized they did not list the postage amount on the stamp.  Rachel, who happened to be sitting nearby, looked at the stamps when I asked, "How are you supposed to know how much these are worth?"  Rachel then said to me very seriously, "Mom, you can't put a price on 'Freedom'" I looked down at the stamps as Rachel continued, "or Justice, Equality or Liberty."  It kills me sometimes that she can say things like this off the cuff, all the time, with her father's straight face.  I've tried to stop asking either of them a LONG time ago, just where they come up with some of this stuff... but I still find myself sometimes halfway through the question before I realize this question has already been answered (many times) before I just turn and walk away.

06 April 2012

Ponderings From The World of Socks OR Break Out The Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum...

Or both? Yes! That's the ticket! 

For some reason, while I was recuperating (at a far slower rate than I feel is fair), the world of the socks who reside at our house have really, really become fearful at the sound of my walker, cane, or bare feet approaching. Who'd have thunk it?

Maybe it was my idea to end the plight of the refugee sock orphans? All I suggested was that we take a picture of every sock orphan and tape them to the sides of all the laundry hampers and baskets. Like they used to do on milk cartons.  Let's face it. Laundry for 7 means a LOT of hampers and baskets! Then, if no family members were found, we could decide their fates as needed.

Just think of it. A return of pairs. The warm fuzzies of a sock pair reunion. Celebrating by jumping out of a pair of perfectly good hands in tandem... into the basket. Come to think of it and the laws of physics... I surely hope I remembered to put fabric softener in the wash because the static electricity buildup caused by the friction of flying through the air could have rather shocking consequences.

Perhaps a sock dating service might help unite lonely socks.  A sock wedding would be a fine sight to see, don't you think? I can hear the couple now, "I knew from the first minute we were packaged together that we were meant to be." Can socks be born as a single or in triplets?

And what about 'toe socks'? By definition, they seem to be a little more possessive of my toes than I am comfortable with.  I MUST look for the silver lining here (that is, after all, the purpose of this blog).  If one has to wear toe socks, at least they won't have to worry about toe jam.  I guess it could be said that toe socks leave one's foot digits immaculately clean. No toe jam in THAT pair.

I'm getting off topic here, so to help keep things rolling in a somewhat linear pattern perhaps we could have a sing-a-long? Something like Sesame Street's song, "One of these socks is not like the others?" No? OK. Moving right along.

What about pairs of socks that LIKE to be different? I never thought about sock discrimination before.  It's not my cup of tea (unless my laundry hasn't been done in way too long), but now that I think about it? Socks all over the world should be set free to be who and what they are. Whether they are striped, polka dot, colorful, tidy whitey, left, right, long, short, silk, cotton, wool. Even a polyester blend.  Outdoorsy types and socialite types.  Therapeutic types. Tennis, running, walking or hiking socks are ok too.

Just so I don't seem too 'goody, goody', I must admit that I believe that socks stained beyond public display should be immediately removed from the family Escutcheon. 

It also has crossed my mind when I am about to throw some socks into our trash compactor, that I truly do have the necessary equipment to become the death camp command of orphan socks. Those socks not claimed within the prescribed time limit, will be terminated in our house.  

In this house, I'm all for the sound of the gavel, "Going once, going twice... gone... to that nice young trash compactor over there."

There are, however, a few necessary exceptions to this 'pair' rule.  Christmas stockings (although it would be nice to get twice as many stocking goodies).  The Rocky Balboa of socks... a sock full of pennies (for self defense).  For use as golf club protectors (although there really is no 'status' in that).  Sock puppets, but only if their facial and body reconstruction is done by trained and licensed professional sock puppet . A long single sock makes a great tail when you are two or three years old. A sock of ice instead of that expensive piece of steak. And let's not forget sock fights. What about 'holey' socks? Well I guess if they could survive the surgery, stitches and perhaps are blessed, we could take them out only on Sundays.

Still, I sleep and dream of a troupe of laundry baskets, all in formation.  Now if I could only figure out how to command them to actually pick up all the dirty clothes, sheets, towels and transport them to the wash staging area where they automatically sort, load washer, apply the correct amount of cleaning agents, then when ready, they dry, fold and put away all of the aforesaid laundry. The next day could be even better, only with the dishes.  Another wonderful lather, rinse, repeat day...

QOTD: "The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another's, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises." ~ Leo Buscaglia